Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What Happens in Salem

It was on September 19th, 2016 that I took my first step in Salem, Massachusetts. There was an air of excitement as childhood fantasies of going to one of the birthplaces of American witchcraft were realized. The city itself was beautiful, taking care to preserve the historical aesthetics. But something else was present that I have to think that not everyone who walks those hallowed brick walkways experiences: the history.

When I attempted to explain to my boyfriend how Salem made me feel, one word kept popping into my head. I told him “I just felt an ancestral connection.” It was absolutely the case – I had visited a plethora of historical sites. I had been to Athens, Rome, Pompeii, and tons of historical sites in the US. I had visited spots where history was bloody, but never had I felt like I was intrinsically wrapped in that history. Never had I had the intense desire to move to those places and drink up the energy as if it wouldn’t be there forever. In Salem I felt a connection to the past so assaulting that even now, after exactly seven months, the experience still weighs heavily on me.

On the base level, nothing too otherworldly happened. We visited a cute gift shop where I bought a Bewitched t-shirt and a cool coffee mug. We ate at a nice restaurant on the pier. We went on one of those ghost tours that advertises itself by claiming that other guests have died after taking the tour. (“Look it up – they died!” the tour guide in ostentatious clothing proclaimed.) But what was happening to me on a spiritual level goes beyond anything I’ve ever felt before.

The women of Salem had always held a special place in my heart. When I learned about Salem as a kid, I was fascinated. When I learned about sexism as a teenager, it was impossible not to link the two. These women, usually unmarried and completely rejected by the strict puritan culture that surrounded them, were murdered at the cry of one paranoid villager, often blaming some common illness or disease on the neighbor. And certainly, witchcraft has always had its place in the world and it’s entirely possible that some women in this community were practicing. Honestly, I would be shocked if they weren’t. But it was this connection – the intersection of my feminist beliefs with my fascination with the witch trials and all things “spooky” – that was the dominant thread in my mind as I walked past the shops and met friendly women selling trinkets and gifts to visitors.

In the very core of my being, in my soul, being in Salem just felt right. It felt like I was being empowered by the spirits of strong women who had dared to be different. The history felt like it was living in the most literal sense. The city itself pulled me in, and the energies made me feel more like myself than I had ever felt before.

Today, the ghosts of Salem still haunt me. I think about it nearly every day. I bought Tarot cards. I find myself becoming more and more interested in learning about this secret history. And on multiple occasions, I’ve found myself daydreaming about living there. What I thought was a vacation was more like a pilgrimage, and on it, it seems as though I found myself through the connectedness of feminine energy throughout history.

What a strange, new feeling.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Daily Draw: Ten of Wands

Before I went to turn over my card for the daily draw (which I had admittedly skipped a couple of days on), I felt nervous. I had done my huge reading and the cards made me feel quite enlightened, but what if I got another reversal? Or even worse, another reversed Major Arcana? But no. When I flipped the card over, it was the Ten of Wands.

There is a certain association with this card; it is often one of weight and, to use the word Siolo uses in her guidebook a lot, a burden. But at the same time, the card is often about new horizons and beginnings. 

I couldn't help but think that the cards were trying to tell me that I have a lot of weight on my shoulders what with this feeling that I need to learn how to control my emotions quickly, but that ultimately, it will be okay. I signed up for this journey and it won't be easy, but it will certainly be worth it. 

On that front, it's worth mentioning that I am already beginning to feel much better. Anxiety has started to fade, all the silly worries I had about other things, especially my relationship, have faded. I have a lot more work to do: specifically in not letting my emotions rule me in situations where they are heightened. However, for the time being, I feel happier and I trust myself to make the right decisions and to listen to my intuition more than my fear in the future.

The cards, on all accounts, seem to support me in this.

- Erebella

Friday, April 7, 2017

Card Counting Spread: Finding Hope

After having such strange daily draws, namely with the two Major Arcana in reversed positions two days in a row, I felt it was necessary to give myself a larger spread to get some insight on where my energies were being blocked. Quick disclaimer here: the method I used is one straight from the Golden Dawn in which you essentially "count cards" and tell a story that way. However, I have changed certain parts of this method to better suit my needs, and the deck that I use.

One of the key changes was that instead of using the numbers assigned to the cards by the Golden Dawn, I used the associated numbers listed in the guidebook for cards I was unsure of. (I used the numbers given by the cards for suits and Major Arcana, but consulted the guidebook for court cards.) One reason I did this is because I felt like it better applied to my deck. I use Linestrider by Siolo Thompson, and while I appreciate the authority of the Golden Dawn on these matters, I also feel that my deck is more useful when I stick to its unique qualities, such as giving the Queen of Pentacles a value of three as opposed to four, which is the default for Kings and Queens in the Golden Dawn's method. (You can learn more about this method here.)

Another reason I decided not to use the original numbers was that my layout didn't respond well to that. With the original count, I would have gone from the Queen to the 10 of Swords, which would have landed on itself, thus ending the reading altogether. In the alternative method I used (keeping the original GD rule of counting Aces with a value of 5, by the way), I still end on the 10 of Swords, which I feel means that my method gives similar advice, but does so in a much more fulfilling and comprehensive manner.

Finally, I should note that the GD method describes the process of telling a story with this method. I have never interpreted the cards in this way; my intuition tells me that the cards speak to give advice, not to lay out a specific moment of my future. Perhaps other decks are good for this kind of thing, but my deck feels like it would much rather teach me about myself than give me possible insights into what will happen later, and frankly, I'm perfectly okay with that. Due to this, my reading will be less of a story and more of a movement through each triad, keeping the previous in mind as a way to make out specifics about what I need to do in my life to end these blockages of energy and keep myself happy and healthy. With all of that said, let's get to it.

1. The Emperor
2. The Moon (Reversed)
3. Three of Cups
4. Ace of Pentacles (Reversed)
5. Queen of Pentacles
6. King of Swords
7. Nine of Cups
8. Ten of Swords
9. Knight of Wands (Reversed)

One of my favorite parts of the counting method is finding the card that represents you. I have not yet had the issue of doing this reading and not getting a court card, but I'm sure I will be baffled when I eventually do. This time, the court card that I knew had to be me (of the possible three) was the Queen of Pentacles. She is a bastion of compassion and generosity; two qualities which I have recently been trying to emulate every day. When I saw her, I couldn't help but smile. The reversed Ace of Pentacles beside her baffled me at first, but as I consulted the guidebook, one small note caught my eye and I immediately knew why it was there. Part of the reason I had decided to spend time focusing more on being compassionate and generous was because I felt that my emotional nature had taken on a more materialistic focus. I was getting upset when I didn't have material things to make me happy. I was frustrated when my boyfriend wouldn't buy me a snack. Silly things like that, which in small amounts are tolerable, but in large amounts, can be toxic to a relationship. Suddenly, the position of the queen made complete sense. The cards were explaining to me that my move towards compassion was a good and necessary one, and that I had spent too long letting my emotions rule me. Instead, I was now letting logic (King of Swords) be my guide, and making an effort to nurture rather than give in to negativity.

From there, I went to the Nine of Cups. Between the two Swords, I felt relatively certain that this card represented my finding fulfillment in areas that I have been focusing on, namely in strengthening my relationship by being more nurturing, keeping my emotions in check, and contributing to our little household by doing some domestic work. These recent ideas (King of Swords) will move me in the right direction, because now, all the pain that I had been feeling has peaked and the worst is over (10 of Swords).

After that, my ideas seem to be solidified as I land on the King of Swords. I notice that the count has placed me solidly in this half of the spread, focusing deeply on my need to balance emotions and the possible happiness I can find in doing that.

After getting to know the latter half of the spread pretty intimately, the count brings me to the other half, and at first I am bothered by what I land on: the reversed Moon. However, it very quickly becomes clear that the card represents self-deception, specifically referencing my recent anxiety attacks, which had me convinced that my relationship was at its end. With the Emperor and the Three of Cups on either side of it, the message felt crystal clear: Chill out. Stop listening to the voices of fear and worry. Your happiness is found in spreading love both for yourself and for others. At this point, as the cards were very clearly driving home a few very important lessons, I all but had to laugh at the fact that my deck had clearly been trying to tell me this all along. I was hesitant to believe that the cards were an entity, but as they continue to prove how clearly they are able to communicate, I find it easier and easier to believe.

From the Moon, I landed on the Emperor. Caught between two reversals, I knew the card was one of advice rather than one of encouragement. The Knight of Wands, when reversed, can indicate setbacks. It can indicate that things are moving slowly and that little progress is being made. This card really spoke to me, as there have been some major setbacks in my life within the past year or so, and that time did seem to slow down and I felt like I was at a standstill. With the Moon warning of self-deception, the Emperor felt like he was trying to tell me that what was really keeping me from finding happiness and purpose was myself. I had created my own setbacks by allowing my fears to control my actions, which is absolutely true. The Emperor felt like an opportunity to find enlightenment with my promise to work on strengthening my mental health.

The Ace of Pentacles was the next card I landed on, and it seemed to have one major piece of advice for me: Don't add new stressors to your life until you can better manage your emotional health. The only focus you need to have right now is to love yourself and others, and to find your own happiness before you do anything else which could potentially unbalance things even more.

I had to agree.

Finally, as the last transition I would make before the cards became circular, I landed on the Ten of Swords. For a while, this has been my least favorite card in the deck. It speaks of misery, and the artwork on the Linestrider deck is distressing. Even in specific ways, the image haunts me. I have always had a love for Elk, as those also happen to be my initials. When I see the elk-like creature, bleeding from his wounds, I can't help but wish the poor thing was already dead, no longer suffering.

Those feelings aside, however, I couldn't help but pull an extremely comforting message from this card. Especially with it being my last, it almost seemed to speak to me:

"Listen, you've spent the last month in deep pain. You've had anxiety attacks. You've had nightmares. You've gotten into ridiculous arguments with people you love. You feel as though you've been the worst possible version of yourself, and you had all but convinced yourself that the things making you happy would be gone. But the worst is over. You've pushed through that pain and you've made it to the light. From here on out, things get better. Check your emotions. Be loving and gentle. Stay confident in yourself and your relationships. You've emptied Pandora's Box, and now it's time to let Hope take hold of you."

Tears are brimming in my eyes as I write this, but I am hopeful. I am in love. I am happy.

Thank you, Tarot.
- Erebella

Extra Notes:

Many have speculated that "unread" cards in this spread represent the future. In that respect, I believe that the reversed Knight of Wands means that I will continue to struggle with a slow pace, which is to be expected as mental health issues aren't cured in a day, and hardly in a lifetime. My anxiety will always be a factor, and learning to control it is a slow process. However, the Three of Cups promises many happy days and celebrations to come with those I love. 

I can't help but notice the immediate closeness of the Queen of Pentacles and the King of Swords. I also can't help but seem some connections between those cards to myself and my boyfriend. In what may possibly be too optimistic of a reading, I think their proximity to each other denotes a permanence to their positions and a powerful bond between them. In conjunction with the message from the spread, I read this as a positive omen for my relationship, which has been my primary source of anxiety and self-deception as of late.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Daily Draw: The Star (Reversed)

As I shuffled my deck, I must admit that my mind wasn't quite as focused. I kept thinking about a recent encounter I had had in one of the Facebook groups I belong to, in which an older man was determined to put down anyone who learned the Tarot through means other than books. I had informed the man that the Internet was becoming a much better source of information, and that his comments were likely to drive away potential Tarot readers who cannot afford to invest in tons of books, but the entire exchange set off a long argument, in which he ignored me and continued to devalue me and others as true practitioners of Tarot. I am new to this, but I have also invested many days into the study of Tarot, and I don't appreciate someone telling me that my knowledge is worthless.

That was the prevailing thought I had as I shuffled my deck, asking what I needed to take away from today.

As I flipped the card over, I found the Star, reversed. I know the Star as a symbol of guidance and the word I always associate with it is "homecoming", so my first thought was that perhaps I have some negative energy preventing me from being guided. I went to my guidebook and found that the reversal of the Star can also mean that I need to let go of negative thoughts and focus on growth and change. The reversal of the Star can warn of damage caused by grudges. Finally, the reversal can mean that I have grown bored with something in my life, or I have lost faith in it. These revelations spoke to me on a few different levels.

Firstly, I had spent a large part of the day debating with myself over whether or not to leave a group I am a part of. We meet up weekly to play Dungeons & Dragons, but recently each session has been exhausting and the people in the group have been giving me really negative energies. In one sense, I felt the Star telling me that it would be okay to leave the group, and that I need to let go of that particular source of negativity and use the time to do something different.

I also related the meaning back to the heated debate I had gotten into with the older, male Tarot reader. The Star was a gentle reminder not to let myself be affected by outside negative forces. It was also a reminder to spend more time listening and less time getting into Facebook arguments!

Ultimately, though, I feel that there are greater things for me to explore about my situation. I pulled Death yesterday and the Star today: two Major Arcana in a row, both in the reversed position. Perhaps the message the cards are trying to send requires more than a Daily Draw to really understand. Later, I plan on giving myself a large spread to interpret to see where I am at and where I need to be heading. I seem to have a lot of problems with my energy being blocked, and hopefully doing an in-depth spread will enlighten me as to what I need to be working on!

Analysis: The Fool

The Fool is the first card of the standard Tarot deck; it is iconic in that it marks the beginning of a journey. When beginning the study of the Tarot, it only makes sense to begin with the card that most completely captures beginnings, journeys, and potential.

It is important to note that while the Fool is the first card, its number is actually 0. This is not an oversight on the part of the creators; it's a very intentional choice with a lot of meaning packed into it. 0 holds a lot of meaning. In all the references I could find, people talked about the inherent nothingness of the zero, but they also mentioned the contained potential. The zero has a strange connection to infinity, and in such, it gives that meaning to the Fool. He has infinite potential, and while he may be a blank slate, he is ready to embark on his path.

This idea of nothingness is perhaps illustrated more clearly in the Linestrider deck, which is what I have always used for my readings. With the face left blank and the body unfinished, we see that there is much to be discovered about the personality of the Fool. As he moves from the first sphere of the Kabbalah (The Crown, or potential) and into the second sphere (Wisdom, or intention), he will become more aware and his personality will begin to take shape.

When I first sat down with this card, my goal was to take my very basic understanding of its meaning and just right down all the observations I could make, especially those specific to the Linestrider interpretation. At first, I was worried that I would not be able to pick much up. However, it became very clear to me that when I open myself up to the messages of the cards, they are eager to tell me.

The term which kept coming to mind was "blind faith". This speaks to many of the commonly understood meanings of the Fool: naivety, optimism, confidence, etc. It is also compounded by the fact that the face of the Fool is blank and therefore quite literally blind. Despite the positive outlook of this card, it warns of overconfidence and recklessness: we see the Fool in most interpretations about to step off of a cliff. His ignorance may be blissful, but it may also be his downfall.

It stood out to me that there are few colors on this card, and that their placement is odd. The Fool himself is left white, a color signifying innocence and purity. However, his few possessions are colored. The bird and the sack are both blue, which felt to me as though blue was representing freedom. Blue is the color of the unending sky and the waters of the world; optimism abounds and movement is key. Meanwhile, the flowers in his left hand and the feather in his cap are red. To me, this very clearly speaks of passion and energy. The Fool is ready to leave his comfort zone and explore new horizons. However, the flower petals that fall behind him speak to the fact that as he gains new insights, he rejects older ideas and parts of himself and embraces new ones. Ultimately, he is open-minded towards everything he encounters. He is determined to reach his goal, even if he does not yet know what that goal is.

Finally, I was struck by the fact that the Fool seems almost to be defined by his circumstances. The only colors surrounding him are of things not a part of him. They are his material possessions, or his companion. The Fool has not yet gained the understanding which forms his person. Until then, he is bound to the wills of the world.

The Fool in the upright position has both positive and negative qualities, which I think is an interesting way to begin our Tarot experience. However, the negative qualities are only amplified if the Fool is found in the reversed position. This warns of irresponsibility or reckless behavior. Perhaps even mental illness. Instability is a major risk when you venture into the unknown and the reversal of the Fool can be a sign that the risk is greater than the reward. However, the reversal doesn't have to be so dark. In some readings, the reversed Fool may just be telling you to let go of anxieties which may be holding you back from taking the leap of faith.

In many ways, the Fool is the "Go for it" card! In readings, the Fool most often represents a journey which could or should be taken. The Fool seeks to escape situations where he feels tethered, and refuses to be held back. And while the Fool has his fair share of character flaws, he is still one of the most promising cards to pull in a Tarot reading.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Daily Draw: Death (Reversed)

In a previous post, I mentioned how I had a surprising experience when I found myself really connecting with and adoring the Death card. Still, stigmas attached to it pervade, because as I drew my first card in months and saw Death - especially in the reversed aspect - my heart began to pound in my chest!

Death normally signifies change and transformation; and honestly, I find the card to be beautiful. Even in real life, I tend to view death as a natural and necessary part of existence. It's not something I fear, though of course, it is definitely something I hope I don't encounter soon! In the reversed aspect, the death card generally means you are at a standstill. Things are stagnant, and perhaps you are resisting change. It has been difficult for me to do this reading, especially as there are two other cards which have managed to catch my eye today: the Queen of Cups and the Page of Wands. Both of these together lead me to believe that the cards are trying to inform me about my relationship.

My boyfriend and I are certainly no perfect couple. We were for a while, but then reality set in and we argued over silly things and there were a few very tense moments where we both dealt with the worst parts of each other. Yet, here we are, standing strong, together, and sending cute text messages back and forth. So when the cards seem to indicate that I am resisting change or that I am having relationship issues, what I mostly feel is confusion. As I write this, my boyfriend is reassuring me that he loves me and that things are totally fine.

So I have to wonder; what other changes could I be resisting? Today is my first full day without seeing my boyfriend in nearly two months. I spend the majority of my time at his house, although occasionally, I come home to visit with my mom for a while. As you might imagine, while I love visiting with my family, I always hurt at the thought of being without my love. He is a force of goodness in my life, and has often been the anchor which keeps me on solid ground. Especially while I deal with mental health issues, he is a rock and he supports me the best he can.

So I'm drawn to believe, then, that the cards are reflecting the pain in my heart from being without him. Death in its reversed aspect reflects my difficulty of letting my circumstances change and saying goodbye to him, even if only for a short period. However, both of the court cards give me a positive energy, and I am certain that despite the sadness of being without my love, the pain will ultimately be short-lived and that good vibes and emotional satisfaction are sure to come in the near future!

In lieu of this reading, my goal for tomorrow is to give my boyfriend extra amounts of love and maybe a phone call so I can hear his voice.

- Erebella

A Return to Tarot

It has been around five months since I have even touched my tarot cards. I think back to one of the daily draws I posted, in which I drew the reversed Strength card and talked about my continuous lack of self-discipline. In hindsight, perhaps the cards were warning me that my old habits would return to keep my disconnected from my more spiritual (and happier) nature.

Sure enough, life became super stressful after that. Political changes occurred in my country which have left me sapped of energy and more anxious than ever before. Health problems have plagued me, both mental and physical in nature, and my poor boyfriend has had to deal with me in some of my worst moments. However, returning home to spend some time with my mother has also been a return to tarot. I had been feeling the call for the past few weeks, and when I saw my deck for the first time in months, I jumped on the opportunity to organize it, spend time with it, and just be in meditation with it. I spent nearly ten whole seconds with the cards before I realized I wanted to delve back into my studies.

I took out my notebook that I had started taking extensive notes in, and I smiled as I read over all the notes I had already taken. I had noted meanings for each of the Major Arcana, both upright and reversed positions. I had recreated a basic Kabbalah, and then taken the time on a few more pages to see if I could draw and label it without looking at the reference. I had taken pretty glorious notes on readings I had done, both for myself and for a couple of my friends. And as I looked at these notes, I realized how truly happy and excited I am when I get to spend some time solely listening to my intuition and experiencing my emotions through academic lenses. 

When I began this journey, the cards almost seemed to promise to me that I would find success in my endeavor to learn more about the Tarot. I believe that I was already starting to feel positive effects from my readings. So now, here I am, ready to get back into the habit of reading and studying. Hopefully, I can stick with it this time, and if the cards attempt to warn me of my fleeting attention span, I will catch on before taking another five-month break!

With that out of the way, here is where I will make promises about content that may not come to fruition, but I sincerely hope that I can do these things:

Daily Draw - I plan on picking this up again. The daily draws I did were always so insightful and exciting. Also, I am happy with how they allowed me to better understand the deck and the cards within it. This is such a simple exercise and a great way to actually get practice doing readings.

Weekly Three-Card Spreads - I feel like simply drawing one card every day isn't nearly enough to learn how to give accurate readings. From what I know of Tarot, the meanings are changed in so many ways as cards have different positions and are paired with other cards. Multiple-card spreads tend to give me anxiety, but I feel that the only way I can truly learn to get past this anxiety is to force myself out of my comfort zone.

Notes on the Cards - This is a completely new addition to the blog. My goal is that each day, I can spend a few hours learning each card, one by one, and building my own sort of encyclopedia of knowledge. I will go in the order of most organized decks, starting with The Fool, following his journey, and then going through each of the suits. I will have one post per card, which will basically be a summary of my notes taken throughout the day. Expect my first post on The Fool later tonight!

I am excited to see where this journey takes me next!

Thanks for sticking around.
- Erebella