feet in the flames

these past few weeks have involved a lot more spreads than usual, so i wanted to get back to basics today with a single-card reading. the cards had bigger plans though, getting right in my face with an intense draw: the devil.

the-devili’ve worked with this trickster before, and his general meanings are difficult. addiction, inner demons, bondage, materialism, negativity, enslavement, a prison of our own making – this card speaks to inner darkness, the temptations and wickedness that lives within us all. often this card is seen as a wake-up call, a harsh reminder to examine our own failings and make some serious adjustments. we all have secrets, challenges, inner desires that we’re ashamed of, but often the easiest way to overcome these difficulties is by acknowledging them. it seems impossible to ignore something as dramatic as feet in the flames, but as humans we’re very good at ignoring negative things, even when they may be hurting us.

and this could certainly be the message for me today. i’ve been in a weird head space lately, disappointed with myself, feeling isolated from friends and family, craving a new project or start to get me motivated and energized. i feel lazy, slow, uncomfortable. i hate the idea of blaming outside forces for my problems (“the devil made me do it” is the ultimate way to avoid taking responsibility, don’t you think?), but i think my inner devil has been having a field day with my sluggishness, my lack of motivation, my feelings of discomfort in my own world and head and body.

but is that all? a clarifying card is in order, as it so often is with major arcana cards. and my second pull has me reconsidering what the devil might be telling me: the nine of cups, a card of finding pleasure, reveling in contentment, and enjoying harmony.

IMG_0340i don’t see this card often, but when i do it’s paired with a difficult card, like the tower. it’s a lovely card, a reminder to enjoy life to the fullest and appreciate the present, but it often feels like a snarky reminder that my life is just fine, thank you very much – i have people that love me, a good relationship with my family, a fairly strong marriage, a job that i love, a safe place to live, plenty of food and clothing, enough money to occasionally buy frivolous things… i could go on, but you get the point. what do i really have to complain about? why the depression, the darkness, the moodiness and struggles and sadness?

as a clarifying card for the devil, i see something completely different: enjoy what you have, and stop taking everything so damn seriously. indulge a little. find something that brings you happiness, even if it’s just for a moment. beth writes about how the devil is not always bad – he can encourage us to live a little, embrace a bit of wickedness, let go and find pleasure in what we can.

i like fire. i’m not afraid of the dark. but i also feel stuck in a rut, tired and cranky, sad and defeated. perhaps it’s time for something new, something fun, something that’s just for me to help pull me out of this weird place that i’m stuck in.

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inner light

today’s card is a reminder for peace, calm, finding quiet spaces, and channeling that inner light: the four of swords.

IMG_0291swords can be a stressful suit for me, and the more i work through the elemental aspects the more i understand that air and i just don’t quite fit. something about all that open space, nowhere to hide, the clarity of truth and the forceful nature of wind and storms – it all makes me a bit uneasy. i like my swirling tides and churning waves, feel safer when i can hide in the depths of stormy seas and sink beneath the currents. but i can’t live solely in those mysterious waters – sometimes honesty and openness are the only way to find contentment. and with those big swords hanging overhead, the lamb has to look within herself to find the eye of the storm, has to set her own boundaries and find peace even when everything around her is tense.

we head back home today, after a crazy week in california. there have been some stressful times, some difficult times, some sad times. i don’t feel nearly as rested or relaxed as i hoped to feel, and catching a cold halfway through didn’t help. but i’m grateful to have been able to spend even a few days in one of my favorite places, and thankful to have spent time with family and new friends. IMG_1517

today is a travel day, which are hardly known for being restful or quiet. but as i fly through the air to my home, perhaps i can find some rest, create some moments of peace and calm for myself. i want to be able to learn from each element, rather than wrapping myself up in one and ignoring the rest. my mental space may often be cluttered, may be dark and twisty and confusing, but that doesn’t mean i can just pretend it’s not there. especially after so much stress, it’s critical for me to rest even in tension, to set boundaries for myself so that i can take some deep breaths and find center again.

burning out

i’m deep into my insomnia, going on day five of no real sleep, and tarot feels like a giant mystery right now. it’s time to begin week two of the alternative tarot course, focusing on the elements and suits of the minor arcana. and while i’m excited to keep exploring my deck and expanding my knowledge, everything in my head is twisting and turning upside-down. no surprise that today’s draw was the seven of cups, a card that perfectly mirrors my exhausted mind and tangled thoughts.

while water and cups represent relationships, connections, love, friendship, and emotions, part of my work this week is learning how the different suits overlap and interact with each other. the suits speak to each other, reference each other, and offer little hints and reminders that none of these elements exist in a vacuum. someone who’s IMG_0338intellectual and analytical might feel much more comfortable dealing with air and earth, staying connected to the world around them and focusing on knowledge and facts, rather than first considering emotional responses or passionate ideas. and though this seven deals with those watery, elusive emotions, connections to other people that we can’t usually control, depths that can be frightening to explore – i can’t help but notice the powerful celestial bodies that feature on this card, and those strong mountains in the background. this confusion may be centered on cups and water, but there are references to air and earth too. after all, when emotionally confused, when illusions feel much too real, when everything is sideways and it’s impossible to know which step to take next, don’t we try to intellectualize, find a rational solution, seek the truth? don’t we scramble to find our footing, stay grounded, find comfort in the physical world? when our hearts are disoriented and can’t find a way forward, we move to other strengths, work to solve the problem in a new way.

my personal elements are mainly water and fire, but i’m working to incorporate more air and earth into my daily life. i rely the most heavily on my instincts and intuition, rather than my intelligence or ability to recall facts and knowledge. i may live in the physical world, and relish being in nature, but i tend to get lost in my thoughts and dreams when left to my own devices. my weakest element is probably air, as my mind can be a very dark and difficult place. i’m not always comfortable solely in my head, preferring to either lose myself in the physical world or stay true to my fiery passions or swirling, complex emotions.

some larger elemental spreads will be coming later in the week, but for today i’m going to give myself permission to live in this disorienting space, and try to get my head on straight.

offerings

as i spend time with family, with all of the emotions and plans and struggles and confusion that goes along with traveling with lots of adults and small children, i find myself a bit drained. california is beautiful and sunny and mellow, the kind of bright, optimistic energy that everyone seems drawn to. and yet getting here was exhausting, there are a lot of people to meet and connect with, and i haven’t slept well in too long. today’s card is a reminder to be kind, both to others and to myself: the two of cups.

IMG_0333two elegant goblets, identical in form and size, rest on a dark table. roses cross over them, evenly spaced so that both cups can share in their beauty and radiance. everything about the card is symmetrical and simple, with balance and reciprocity and the sharing of something truly sweet. this is a card of love, of connection, of true soulmates.

offering a cup, a gift, an open look into one’s heart and soul, takes a lot of trust. it’s not easy to be completely honest, to offer the good with the bad, to surrender to emotion and acknowledge all the messy things that come along with connections and relationships. but true friendship, true love, true empathy and loyalty and generosity only happen when we strip everything away and aren’t afraid to reveal our true selves.

it feels that for the last month or two i’ve been so introspective, focusing on my personal goals and sharing secret parts of myself with those that i trust. it takes a lot to give so much of me away, and i’m still feeling the impact. but there’s a freedom too, a sigh of relief. i can just be myself now. i had to extend that cup, with all of its fears and joys and fierceness and mystery, to others. and now perhaps i can find some quiet.

 

peace & love

today’s daily draw is a card i worked with just last week: the empress.

the-empressnurturing, soothing, radiating calm and tranquil energy, the empress is vibrant, creative, and brimming with love. she’s a caretaker, someone who makes everyone around her feel both relaxed and strong. she builds people up, cares for their needs, reminds them that they are capable and powerful, and is never afraid to let her own light shine brightly. there’s a sensual energy here, a passion and abundance that illuminates the card. she encourages us to care for others as well as ourselves, to reconnect with natural and the world around us, to offer love without restrictions or restraint. she takes us as we are, imperfections and all, and reminds us of our power.

i’ve got a lot swirling in my head these days – my husband has been pushing himself to the limit and is now sick, work has been hectic, and we’re getting ready to head out to california tomorrow for a week-long trip. it’s the first time i’ll be seeing my in-laws since coming out last month, and i’m both excited and incredibly nervous about what the next few days may bring. i’m also trying to be as loving and compassionate as possible, helping my husband get well before a busy week of travel. the empress can speak to these worries, reminding me to offer nurturing love to my partner, to remember compassion when speaking to my conservative family members, and to stay grounded and connected to the world around me so that i don’t get so lost in my mind that i drift away.

IMG_0334since i drew the empress so recently, i decided to gift myself a companion card for some extra clarification and direction: and pulled the three of cups, a card i haven’t worked with before. a card of friendship, kindness, and joy, this is a beautiful reminder of the people that i share love with on a daily basis. i have a group of girls that have saved my life in a sense this past year, and i see them here – but this card is also a reminder that i have a supportive family, a strong husband, and old friends that love me even if we don’t see each other often. i love my family, but the idea of the family you choose is something i’ve always really embraced. my chosen family keeps me grounded, keeps me centered, lets me kick and scream and cry when i need it, but also reminds me that i’m strong and brave and more powerful than i realize. they gave me the courage to come out. they encouraged me to seek a therapist for my depression and self-harm. they let me be myself, absolutely and honestly, in a way i haven’t been able to before. and that holistic, healing energy of the empress – it’s here, in real friendship and love.

there’s a lot of color, a lot of soothing energy, a lot of love in these cards today. and as someone that considers myself a dark, swirling mess of weird, it’s comforting to see so much positivity here. my main struggle with tarot is honestly reading what the cards are saying, rather than twisting them into something else – but it’s hard not to see the tenderness and warm in today’s cards. i’ll try not to fight it.

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dual meanings

as i continue to reflect on what tarot is and why it’s important to me, i was delighted to pull a card for my daily reading that seems to embrace all the beautiful difficulties and contradictions of this practice: the two of swords.

IMG_0289this powerful card features two dark swords, identical in strength and size, locked together. a fiery eclipse hovers over their meeting point, with dark lines of energy pulsing away from their crossing.

this depiction in the wild unknown is very different from the more traditional images of a woman standing blindfolded, holding a sword in each hand, contemplating and considering what she cannot see. where the wild unknown image feels like conflict or a stalemate, the original image feels peaceful, contemplative, like the woman featured is pushing other things out of the way to focus on what matters. i love the duality of this card, the variety of meanings that can be drawn from it. two opposing forces clashing, with no one able to move forward, all that energy stalled by an contradictory force. but they could also be unified, lending one another strength, joining those strong forces together to achieve a common goal or purpose. there’s such focus, a beautiful balance and symmetry that speaks to a completely different energy.

week one of beth’s alternative tarot course includes a lengthy list of questions, all centered around tarot, including history, meaning, purpose, abilities, and how that connects to me as a reader. and when i consider what drew me to tarot in the first place, this card is a perfect example: i love the duality, the hidden meanings, the way that every card feels full of possibilities. obviously the suits and courts, the major and minor cards, all have patterns and inherent symbolism that lends each card to specific meanings. but all of that is open to interpretation, allowing individual readers to listen to the cards and hear their message.

mother-of-cupsthe appeal of the beautiful mystery and elusive nature of tarot is what compelled me to choose the mother of cups as my personal card for the duration of this course. it was a strong influence in my reader’s reading a few days ago and is a card i’ve written about many times already. her wisdom, natural intuition, empathy, solitude, and psychic abilities are appealing and inspiring to me, and represent much of what i hope to gain from learning tarot. this card makes me feel powerful and strong, reminds me to listen and find wisdom in stillness, and gives me courage to trust my instincts and my intuition.

 

worries, worries

all of my exercises for beth’s alternative tarot course this week focus on my personal feelings and goals for tarot: what is tarot for? what do i hope to achieve by reading? can tarot predict the future? and as i consider my connection to these cards, and why they’ve become so important to me, i have to acknowledge that i don’t see them as predictive. i seek insight, understanding, and a new perspective on questions when i read – i don’t rely heavily on the outcome cards in larger spreads or think that what the cards tell me is a guarantee. however, i do take their wisdom seriously, and meditate on their messages.

today’s card is one of sadness, worry, and hard times: the five of pentacles. and while this isn’t a particularly uplifting card to see, it does reflect some worries and difficulties i’ve been facing, and could speak to difficulties to come.

IMG_0322a vivid rose droops, stem slumped, losing a wilted petal in the darkness. in spite of her bright color and seemingly healthy leaf and stem, she is dejected, lost, carrying the weight of the world on her delicate petals. fives are related to loss, suffering, and failing to handle the suit, so as the five of pentacles this card speaks to illness, losing a job, financial troubles, or rejection. earthly concerns, a lack of that which keeps us grounded and stable and comfortable.

i wrote a few weeks ago about a worry that was consuming me, a narrative that i couldn’t see a way out of. and while in this case it was manifesting as swords, i acknowledged a very real concern, though one that i could be creating in my own mind. for me, these days pentacles feel less about money and more about the things that keep me feeling whole and strong: creative work, stories, friends, family, feeling connected to the world around me. while these things are more closely related to wands and cups, seeing a similar feeling of discouragement, worry, and loss reflected in the suit of pentacles feels like it’s hitting closer to home. IMG_0340

seeking advice, i pulled a clarification card: the nine of cups. a card of bliss, peace, and harmony, that seems to directly contradict the sadness and concern of the five of pentacles. this card represents good health, happiness, even material gains; a feeling of wholeness and satisfaction.

at first these cards felt contradictory – my tendency to read pentacles as the things that matter to me, rather than their more standard meaning as earthly possessions, makes for a confusing pairing. but just because i don’t place as much value on wealth and career as others, doesn’t mean that those things can’t still face trials. my current worries are centered on relationships, and the nine of cups speaks to that – it’s important to remember that my connection with the tarot is based in intuition, not prediction. my gut says that things will be hard, but my relationships with people will see me through – and that they are more solid than i think.

tarot’s main purpose for me is to expand my mind, help me see more deeply into myself and the world around me, and find meaning in things great and small. my cards challenge me to trust my intuition, to see beyond the superficial, to listen to my instincts and learn to rely on them to guide me. and while today’s cards aren’t shiny and happy, they reflect what’s going on in my head and my heart – and remind me to remember that what truly matters to me is not in jeopardy.