Category Archives: Major arcana

The Fool’s Journey Through the Major Arcana: SunFest 2016: The Magician

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The Magician: And just where do you think you’re going?

The Fools probably answer that they are seeking enlightenment.

The Magician: Ah. And where do you intend to find it? (word the question to fit their answer.)

The Fools only answer will be that they don’t know but that they need to cross the bridge.

The Magician: As I suspected. You haven’t a clue. Now listen up. You can’t just go wandering around expecting things to fall into place. The Multiverse doesn’t work that way. First you need to decide exactly what it is that you’re looking for. Enlightenment isn’t good enough. Each of you is looking for something different. It may be as specific as “How will I make next month’s rent.” or as general as “What do I need to do next in my life?”

But it’s a waste of your time and the Multiverse’s to ask the Multiverse for next month’s rent. Deep down inside, each of you knows what you truly need to do or to happen to turn your life into something that feeds your soul. Unfortunately, it usually isn’t something you’d choose to do for fun. Do you dare to ask for what you truly need?  If you do, the Multiverse will open the way for you. But will you have the intelligence to recognize it and the courage and the will it follow it?

Take a minute and think about it.

And when you decide what you’re looking for, walk to the center of the bridge, reach up, (Magician raises his right hand which is holding a double ended wand) connect with the Multiverse and ask for guidance. Then channel the gift it gives you into manifestation. (Magician points downward with his left hand.)

Then you can go wandering around expecting things to fall into place.

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The Fool’s Journey Through the Tarot Major Arcana: SunFest 2016: The World

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I’m here to give some advice to a bunch of Fools who are starting a journey to enlightenment. And I know I’m in the right place, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more perfect bunch of Fools.

I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to go wandering around in the woods to find enlightenment.

It’s right here.

All the beauty and perfection of the Multiverse is right here and right now.

All you have to do is be still… and reach for it.

But because you’re a bunch of Fools, you won’t listen to me. You’ll go running around looking for something you already have.

So here’s some advice. If you’re going to be Fools, at least be divine Fools. Let go of the cares and worries and responsibilities of your everyday world.

Because you’re not there anymore.

You’re here, between the worlds, searching for something that’s right under your nose.

Only a madman would do that—so be divinely mad. Forget all your limitations and expectations.

Be like children—open to anything and accepting of everything.

Have a nice trip!

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The Fool’s Journey Through the Tarot Major Arcana: SunFest 2016

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Last year I was honored to be asked to write a “Fool’s Journey Through the Tarot” ritual for SunFest 2016. My first response was to run away screaming “Nooooooooo!” I know from previous experience that there is nothing more time consuming and brain warping than writing, organizing, and directing a large scale ritual.

And then it dawned on me that The Fool’s Journey was exactly what I’ve been writing about on this blog for the past several years and it is exactly what my first book, Forging the Blade (which will soon be available), is about.

And after doing the blog, the book, and countless readings for clients, I was a firm believer in the transformative, life changing power of tarot.

So how could I not share this amazing tool with my community?

“OK,” I said. “I’ll do it.”

Fortunately, my community is composed of many amazingly talented people who volunteered to be in or help with the ritual, who serve on Other Worlds Of Wonder, the non-profit board that runs SunFest each year, and other friends who own Ffynnon, beautiful land dedicated to hosting pagan events.

It all came together nicely.

Even the weather co-operated.

We took three days to do the ritual. Each day the ritual participants, or Fools, journeyed through Ffynnon Forest to meet the major arcana tarot cards.

1 forest_path, Robin Halioua (2)

  • The first day was the Journey to Adulthood: The Magician through The Chariot.
  • The second day was the Journey to Higher Knowledge: Strength through Temperance.
  • The third day was the Journey to Enlightenment: The Devil through The World.

The response to the ritual was overwhelming. As I moved through the festival, visiting with friends and organizing the ritual, people were constantly stopping me to tell me how much the ritual meant to them. Some were actually in tears as they told me what a difference it had made in their lives and how much it gave them to think about. Many folks at the festival knew very little or nothing about the tarot, but they stopped me to say that after meeting the cards they were going to buy a book and a deck and start studying. And the children loved it. Many begged to go through again. OWOW made beautiful, free children’s tarot decks available and the kids played with them constantly. But, best of all, the spiritual power of the tarot energized the community. OWOW has had people volunteering to help with next year’s festival, paying a year in advance to come to next year’s festival, and volunteering to be in next year’s ritual.

For the next 21 days I will present a picture of each of the major arcana cards as they appeared in Ffynnon Forest and what they said to the Fools who found them.

To be continued…

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Filed under Gifts from the Multiverse, Major arcana, Tarot, The Hero's Journey, Writing, Young Adult Fantasy

Lions and Kerubs and Sekhmet, Oh My!

 

Image by Delun

Image by Delun

The Sun is now in Leo, and of course, this biggest, most important planet of the Zodiac rules the most egotistical sign of them all. In astrological speak, the sun is at home, and not surprisingly this is the hottest part of summer in most places in the northern hemisphere. In the coastal Pacific Northwest that means that it’s usually pleasant and sunny, but here in Portland we occasionally feel Sekhmet’s scorching breath. I was sweltering at my computer last week during one of those occasions when I came upon an email from Adam reminding me (and everyone else on the Hermetic Society google group) that August 7th  was this year’s Leo Kerubic Point. That’s lovely, I thought, what in blue blazes is a Kerubic Point? Adam, never one to leave his readers in ignorance, went on to inform us that the Kerubic Points are the midpoints between the cardinal points of the zodiac, the Solstices ( 0 degrees Cancer and 0 degrees Capricorn) and the Equinoxes, (0 degrees Ares and 0 degrees Libra) which means that they are the midpoints of the fixed astrological signs—15 degrees Taurus, 15 degrees Leo, 15 degrees Scorpio, and 15 degrees Aquarius. They are symbolic of  the four elements, the four cardinal directions, the archangels, and the gospel makers. They also should be the dates of the cross quarters of the Wiccan liturgical calendar, but they aren’t—Beltane, May 1, Lughnasadh, August 1, Samhain, Oct 31, and Imbolc, Feb 2 are the dates modern Wiccans celebrate the cross quarters.

Wheel_of_the_Year,

I’m not sure, but I have a feeling in my bones that this discrepancy happened along about the time Europe switched in fits and starts and country by country from the Julian to the Georgian calendar. Any way, the Kerubic Points are mid points, and when you are smack dab in the midst of something you are in either a place of power or deep doo doo. Magicians, being eternal optimists, insist that mid points are power points, perfect times to perform magical works that would benefit from an extra kick from the Multiverse. These midpoints are so important that the creator/s of the tarot saw fit to use them to tack down the quarters of two major arcana cards, The Wheel of Fortune and The World.

Wheel_of_Fortune2011-04-14_1727The_World

But I was still not content. Why do they call them Kerubic Points? A quick internet search satisfied my curiosity. Kerubs, or Cherubim* support the Mesopotamian Tree of Life which grows in the center of Paradise and supplies the world with life giving water. They are also depicted supporting the thrones of kings and deities. There are four of them and they are associated with the four fixed signs of the zodiac, the living energy of the tetragrammaton, and the four gospel makers. And they have no resemblance to what we call cherubs. All was now clear to me and my mind was temporarily at peace.

 

This is a Cherub. It's a chimera with the head of a man (Aquarius), the body of a bull (Taurus) the wings of an eagle (Scorpio) and the tail of a Lion (Leo).

This is a Cherub. It’s a chimera with the head of a man (Aquarius), the body of a bull (Taurus) the wings of an eagle (Scorpio) and the tail of a Lion (Leo).

Sekhmet

Sekhmet with solar disc

So, we are now in the midst of the sign of Leo. Its symbol is a male lion, but when I think of lion power I always think of female lions, the hunters of the pride, and the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet. Almost every pagan feminist I know has a statue of Sekhmet or a piece of jewelry depicting her. She is not your sweet mother goddess. Her name comes from the Ancient Egyptian word “sekhem”, which means power, and she is called “(One) Before Whom Evil Trembles”, “Mistress of Dread”, “Lady of Slaughter” and “She Who Mauls”.  She is the evil twin of Hathor, the goddess of joy, music, dance, sexual love, pregnancy and birth. But Sekhmet is the ultimate defender of Ma’at, Justice, and is often viewed as the champion of the underdog.

 

Whenever I think of Sekhmet I think of one of my massage clients. Frieda (not her real name) was a successful business woman who quit and now teaches business at a local university and works for a nonprofit company, traveling all over the world and training people in third world countries to become entrepreneurs.** One day she arrived at her appointment in a state of total exhaustion. A friend of hers was dying of cancer and had asked Frieda and several other friends to be guardian angels to her husband and children. Dealing with the untimely death of a close friend is hard enough, but seeing to the physical and emotional needs of her surviving family as well is a nearly unbearable burden. As I massaged her body, I opened my mind in hopes of discovering one of Frieda’s guardian angels or power animals so that I could get them to lend her their strength. Immediately, the room sizzled with power and filled with an awesome presence I was terrified. Sekhmet appeared over my client’s body and glared down at me. The hairs on the back of my neck lifted and my heart hammered in my chest. “Fix her!” the goddess roared. “She still has work to do.”

 

Image by Art of Sekhmet

Image by Art of Sekhmet

My jaw dropped in amazement. There was no mercy or care in those eyes, only power and ambition. This was a goddess with an agenda and suddenly, I was part of it. However, Sekhmet is not my goddess, even though she is the patron of healers, and I don’t like being ordered around in my own office. I reached out to all my power animals, guardian angels, and goddesses and glared right back at her. “That’s what I’m trying to do. If Frieda is so important to you then help me and quit roaring.”

The goddess growled and the room shook. She sat back on her haunches and watched me like I was a wounded wildebeest. Oh shit, you’re lion meat, I thought. She growled again and as she faded from the room a surge of power flowed through my hands and into my client.

I told Frieda that Sekhmet had paid us a visit. “Oh yes,” she replied, “Sekhmet and I go way back.” The gods, and especially the warrior gods, are hard on their champions, but they are usually reasonable.

 

 

But I digress. Back to the Leo Kerub Point. Lissa, another Hermetic, pointed out in response to Adam’s post that today, August 10th, is the second World Lion Day. This is totally appropriate since today is the first full moon after the Leo Kerubic Point. Coincidence? I think not.

I was aghast to learn from the above post that in the past 50 years this magnificent being’s population has dropped 95%. Our world will be a sadder, poorer place if the king of beasts no longer rules the savannah.

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*Plural of Cherub. Christians will recognize them from the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy”. Cherubim and Seraphim fall down before the one true god in verse two.

**She is now in the process of retiring.

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All You Really Need to Know About the Tarot Major Arcana

In her definitive book, Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom, a Book of Tarot, Rachel Pollack begins the first chapter with this spread:

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These are the four most basic tarot archetypes arranged in a perfect pattern of spiritual evolution. I call this the “everything you really need to know about the major arcana” layout.

 The vertical axis is The Fool and The World. The beginning and the end. The Aleph and the Tav. The Alpha and the Omega. Most authors describe these figures as androgynous and both figures are dancing. In fact, they are the only dancers in the major arcana. Death dances in some of the decks, but Death will always dance, and who are we to say it can’t. All of the other figures are pictured in static positions, like they’re posing for a photographer—they each represent a distinct, fixed state of existence.

 The Fool is dancing along a precipice high above the rest of the world and looks to be about to leap down into it. But there is no fear or holding back. S/he radiates innocence and total confidence.

 The World, however, dances suspended in a magical wreath of victory and radiates not only a feeling of completion and wholeness, but also a feeling of endless possibility, which in turn suggests new beginnings.  Together they represent the eternal dance of the universe from beginning to end to new beginning—the cosmic spiral. Like an electromagnetic current spiraling between the anode and cathode ends of a battery, the vertical axis spins around the static horizontal axis formed by The Magician and High Priestess.

The Magician’s planet is Mercury, which represents the psychological functions of logic and communication. He holds aloft a wand in his right hand and points down toward the earth with his left. And so the Magician clearly represents manifestation through logical, linear thought and action—functions of the conscious mind, the left brain. Occultists and many psychotherapists assign these traits to the positive, masculine principal.

The High Priestess sits calmly between a black pillar and a white pillar. A veil hangs between them, the thin veil of conscious awareness, which is all that separates us from our inner selves. The Moon, the planet of imagination, illusions and the unseen, is assigned to her. And so the HPS is the keeper of the infinite and powerful, yet static wisdom of the not-conscious, the right brain. These traits are assigned to the negative, feminine principal. Water is a symbol of the not-conscious and tarot readers are fond of saying that the piece of the High Priestess’s blue robe that trails off the card becomes all the rivers and pools and oceans that appear in the rest of the tarot.

The numbers of these cards are also significant.

  • The Fool’s number is 0, which isn’t a real number, in fact, it’s a not-number. It’s egg shaped, and like an egg, it represents infinite yet unmanifested possibility.
  • The Magician’s number is 1. The first real number. One means wholeness, ego.
  • The HPS’s number is 2. With the number 2 we have a duality: odd/even, positive/negative, black/white, yin/yang, masculine/feminine.
  • The World’s number is 21. It contains both 1 and 2, The Magician and the HPS. In other words, The World represents the reunion of The Magician and The High Priestess, the yin and the yang. 2+1=3, the magic number, the number of creativity, the child of the union of 1 and 2. In fact, the digits of both the horizontal and vertical axes add up to 3. The High Priestess key even foretells the resulting three. She is the third figure between the two pillars of Boaz and Joachim, mercy and severity, the pillars of the Temple of Solomon. Waite has even labeled one B and one J to be sure you don’t miss the symbolism.

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This is the guide to inner wisdom that Cabalists call The Tree of Life. It’s made up of the ten Sephiroth or Sephirot connected by twenty two paths. Each path is assigned a major arcana card. The sephroth on the right form the pillar of mercy and the ones on the left form the pillar of severity. The High Priestess forms the third or middle pillar of the Tree. In fact, the path on the middle pillar from Kether to Tifareth is the path of the High Priestess, whose Hebrew letter is Gimel. The other two paths that make up this pillar are Temperance (Samech) and The World (Tav). So if we read downward from Kether, the first Sephirah, we get the following advice. “To reach Malkuth, The World, we must first establish communication with the not conscious (HPS, Gimel) then we must establish communication between the conscious and not conscious (Temperance, Samech).  Once this communication has been established, direct communication with the divine becomes a state of being (The World) and we reach our goal, Malkuth. Of course one can get there by taking either the right or left pillar, but most cabalists consider the middle pillar to be the preferred path to Malkuth. 

 The_FoolWith this information, the meaning of the spread becomes obvious. In order to learn the lessons necessary to become a more complete, enlightened being The Fool must separate into masculine and feminine. The one must become two.

 

We see this in so many creation myths. God formed Eve from Adam’s rib so he would have a partner, someoneThe_World,_artist_unknown different from himself to exchange ideas with. In many pagan mythologies, the goddess was the first and only being. She gave birth to a son who became her consort/partner—again someone opposite, someone with a different point of view. The journey of the major arcana cards is about how these two, which are really the conscious and unconscious minds of the seeker, become aware of each other and establish an intimate and fluent dialogue. When this is accomplished, the seeker has attained Nirvana, or Heaven on Earth, or the fulfillment of all desires. In other words, he has attained The World.

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Home Alone

2012 (9)Well, not really. Leo, our cat and true master of the house is still here, curled up beside me. But he is quiet, undemanding company.

At least until he gets hungry.

My husband, son, and a few friends are off for a2013-12-27_Dead_Bird_trip 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.

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The World: The Hero’s Journey and the Major Arcana, Part I

The_World

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:

Hildegard_of_BinginJill_Bolte_Taylor

…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.

Meister_Ekhart

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

 

Laurel_wreath

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.The_Fool_001 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.

Marseilles deck

Marseilles deck

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 Lion of St Mark I think it is appropriate that the artist positioned him so he’s glaring directly into the Doges’s Palace.

The Lion of St Mark
I think it is appropriate that the artist positioned him so he’s glaring directly into the Doges’s Palace.

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.

  • The Bull: Earth, North, Taurus, Uriel
  • The Lion: Fire, South, Leo, Michael, St Mark
  • The Eagle: Water, West, Scorpio, Gabriel
  • The Angel: Air, East, Aquarius, Raphael

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.
Squaring_the_Circle_As_with_other_alchemical_images,_this_etching_was_believed_to_possess_all_that_is_needed_to_transform_lead_into_gold._A_caption_ab
“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_FortuneThe 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.

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