positive & present

i’m continuing to focus on my instagram challenge, but today’s cards were so fascinating that they deserve a deeper dive.

day 17: where should i focus more on the present?

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the six of wands, a card of victory, escape, and release. this card appeared just last week to represent my personal intentions, and really spoke to me of hope. sometimes it takes a long time to untangle ourselves from the darkness, but that patience and perseverance will ultimately help us free ourselves from whatever we’re trapped in. my mess of wands is this persistent depression, a smothering of my inner fire that i cannot seem to reignite. the dark chaos below her brilliant wings reveals no easy paths through, no obvious tunnels or beams of light to follow out. the butterfly had to make her own way, and i imagine it was painful and difficult and frustrating at various moments. but this card is her triumph, blasting free and soaring up and out on her beautiful wings.

this fight is still my present, and it’s easy to lose in the hazy struggle of every day life. just getting dressed, doing my job, caring for my dog and my husband, staying in touch with friends feels like too much – i also have to fight off these miserable tangled shadows?

yes, the cards whisper. keep fighting.

day 18: what can use a more positive view?

the ten of wands, a card of heavy burdens, overload, giving up, too much of a good thing. all those brilliant burning fires have exhausted themselves, run out of fuel, been smothered by too many other wands, and everything has been extinguished. all that’s left IMG_0312is a pile of leftovers, energy that has burned out. this card was my weakness for the month of september, and has been challenging me this month.

feeling so drained of fire, utterly exhausted, and having lost passion and light and interest in even the most basic of activities – it’s miserable. and it’s hard to find positivity in such a dark and discouraging card, one that seems to reflect my mental state over the past three weeks. but saying yes to everything, smiling and acting like everything is fine, all to try and force my way out of depression – that isn’t the answer. i have to remember to find joy in one thing at a time, to relish those little victories, to focus on what’s positive in my life rather than letting myself drown in all the negatives. having opportunities is wonderful, but saying yes to every single thing is not.

i had a conversation the other day about wishes, and giving up mental illness and challenges if we could. and while my idiopathic insomnia and major depressive disorder are not characteristics that i love or enjoy, they are such massive parts of me and my life that it’s hard to imagine who i would be without them. if i slept normally, would i be more positive, more energetic, more friendly? if i didn’t deal with depressive episodes several times a year would i be more popular, more optimistic, more spontaneous? it’s impossible for me to know. and while the idea of not having insomnia or depression is certainly appealing, i’m not sure i would want to lose them both – because i don’t know who i would become. what if gaining hours of regular, uninterrupted sleep impacted my creativity? what if not descending into the shadows and darkness made me less sensitive to moods, and damaged my intuition? would those losses be worth it?

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both of these cards remind me that for better or worse, i am who i am. this dark depression, these murky shadows, the tangled branches and twisted thoughts and difficult struggles are all part of me. but fighting through it, trying to find those bits of light, pushing through all the pain and hurt and this aching, overwhelming sadness to eventually find freedom and space and room to breathe? that’s part of me, too. and staying engaged in that fight, finding one wand to wield rather than just burning them all to ashes, and remembering that i’ll escape eventually, are lessons worth repeating.

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intention & truth

instagram has felt easier these last few days – a bit more anonymous, a bit more concise, a bit safer. the prompts from my tarot challenge are thoughtful and focused, and i’ve really enjoyed getting to know others in the community. but today’s cards are devoted to uncovering inner truths, and i find myself wanting a bit more space to explore these meanings. i’m utterly drained, and the last few days have been very difficult, but this feels like a good way to assess and reflect.

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first up is my intentions: the six of wands. this is a new card for me, but i already love it – it reminds me so much of judgement, rising above darkness and shadows and tangled thoughts and feelings to be free, to find space and light, to move forward. the butterfly is so bright, so strong, and those tangled thorns below her could’ve shredded her wings to bits. she may be tired, she may feel worn down, but she has managed to break free and find space to spread her wings again. this is such a lovely, victorious card, recognizing what we’ve had to fight through to find progress. and this absolutely feels like my current intentions – i just want to escape this darkness, want to opened my battered wings and fly out of all of this hurt and pain and fear. i feel like i’ve been stuck here for so very long, and i’m craving escape. i want fresh air, want room to breathe, want to feel like i’m in charge of my body and mind and soul again. everything feels so dark, but this butterfly’s beautiful, colorful wings give me a bit of hope.

 

son-of-wandshow is this manifesting in my life, and what are my actions signaling? the son of wands is independent, single-minded, completely focused on achieving his goals. he’s charming, adventurous, passionate, and completely confident in his abilities. he knows that the path he’s following is the correct one, and he’s sure that his plan will work – no obstacles in sight, no challenges he can’t face, no storm he can’t weather. who needs a backup plan when you already know you’re capable of facing anything?

his confidence is staggering, and certainly doesn’t reflect how i feel right now. but that focus on doing one thing well, on following a path to the very end, on putting all of my energy into one task? that i relate to. tarot has become something so important to my days, and even when i don’t have the energy to write or the strength the share my readings, pulling a card or two and spending some time in thought and meditation has become a goal for each day. i may not accomplish a single other thing, but at least i can find some time for reflection, for consideration, for challenges. it feels like if i can just listen to the cards, even for only a moment, it gives me a much-needed break from the darkness swirling in my mind.

i love that both of these cards are wands, that both cards feel independent and strong, that both cards are focused on a single purpose. i’m longing to break free of my darkness, and i’m using tarot to help me find my way out. and while both of these characters are finding their own way, and i still feel pretty lost in those tangled branches, the son of wands gives me hope that by focusing my energy on self-reflection and understanding, eventually i’m going to find a way to escape.

it’s okay to stand still

armed with a citrine cluster to help release negativity, i came to my cards today with a bit of desperation. i feel so alone, so lost, so exhausted. i just need some guidance, some help, some advice. how can i let go of these miserable thoughts? what can i do to make today feel a little bit easier?

the daughter of pentacles is a card of grounding, positive energy. she is eager to explore, interested in learning everything she can, unafraid to experiment or to fail – she knows that even when things go wrong, we can find lessons in mistakes. she’s IMG_0328practical, resourceful, creative, intelligent, ready for whatever comes next. there is so much to learn from this child of the earth, this eager explorer, this kind, naive daughter. but what really resonates is that she is fully present in each moment, taking things as they come. she doesn’t use up all of her energy planning every step, trying to predict the future – and she doesn’t spend time dwelling on past mistakes, either. she breathes deep, smiles, notices her surroundings, enjoys the sights and sounds she is immersed in, and lets her feet lead her somewhere new and magical. she fully trusts her instincts, even though she knows that they may not be fully developed – after all, she is still a child, still a student, still has so much to learn and experience. but she knows that her innate abilities, her powers of observation and exploration, her intelligence and strength and connection to the earth will guide her. she knows that she is capable of great things, even if they don’t all happen today.

how does this translate to my depression, to my need for reassurance, to my self-care? this fawn has such a fresh, lovely innocence about her – but i feel ancient and crumbling in my pain, withering away to nothing. she’s eager to see the world, curious and excited to experience everything she can – but i feel exhausted, bitter, and all i want to do is curl up and hide from everyone and everything. of course i wish i was more like her at this moment, but how can i possibly get there today?

the short answer is that i can’t. depression is so tangled in guilt for me: all the things i’m not doing, all the ways i’m letting my friends and family down, all the ways i make everything about me me me instead of helping others. but i have to accept that this is where i am right now, and while i may not have a colorful rainbow overhead, or be surrounded by people that love me, or feel like i can accomplish much of anything on any given day, i’m still here. i’m still visiting my therapist, still talking to a psychiatrist about additional treatment options, still reading my cards when i can. i’m still talking to my husband, still taking care of my dog, still eating and even showering occasionally. i’m still answering work emails, still trying to stay in touch with friends, still keeping my family in the loop. i’m still alive.

it may not feel like much, not right now. but this is where i am, and if i can learn to accept that, perhaps today will bring a little bit of peace, and a little less pain.

september, september

reaching for my cards has been difficult lately. the cards are wise, comforting, and challenging, but they take a lot of energy to interpret correctly – i have to be in an place where i can hear anything, where i’m willing to see the messages and lessons that are intended, rather than looking for what i want or what i fear. i haven’t felt strong enough, but i’m trying to push myself today.

i mentioned in my last entry that i’m beginning a september tarot challenge on instagram, and i’m already a few days behind. it felt like fear (and it partially was), but i also liked the idea of tackling the first three days together – my theme for the month, my strength this month, and my weakness this month. i’m not sure how much the challenge will spill over onto this blog, and am honestly not sure how many days i will get through, but starting with these three cards felt right to me.

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armed with rose quartz for healing, compassion, and love, i laid out cards from both of my decks. deep breaths, quiet prayers, trying to enjoy the stillness rather than feeling trapped by it. it’s been a long, difficult few weeks. please, cards, be kind.

1. my theme of the month card

the fountain, a major arcana card unique to the fountain tarot, representing oneness, clarity, ultimate connection, enlightenment, surrender, understanding and acceptance. it was designed to be separate from the cycles of birth, death, time, and form, IMG_1926and while it appears after the world in the major suit, also exists outside of it – similar to the fool, with its 0. this card is infinite, whole, separate. this card is complete on its own.

it’s a stunning card, with sparse, abstract patterns of light and shadow. a brilliant white beam cuts through the center, allowing the edges and swirls to play on either side in their own natural, beautiful way. the card is not perfect, not symmetrical, not flawless, but it is whole, complete, and gorgeous. there’s a peace, a tranquility about this card – it feels confident, calm, aware in its stillness. the text for this card includes the phrase surrender to that which you are, which really resonates – i spend so much time struggling against my own self, my desires, my wishes, my preferences, my needs, my demons. i judge myself daily, especially when my depression is wrapped around me, cutting me off from the world, making it hard to breathe. this idea of unity, of being utterly connected with the universe simply by tapping into everything that makes me me, feels huge, powerful, uncomfortable. but surrender, embracing who and what i am, understanding that even my flaws are essential to my self? what a lovely, complicated idea, and a beautiful challenge and theme for my month.

2. my strength this month


a card of self-preservation, conscious action, and full awareness, the seven of swords represents the strengths that i can draw on this month. this has always been a challenging card for me, feeling like it could have a number of interpretations based on the situation at hand, but i don’t normally see deception or deceit here – at least, not as secrets with wicked or damaging intentions. rather, this feels like a card of protection, staying alert, keeping one eye open and aware of possible danger, trouble, obstacles. our seven-of-swordsfox is a clever trickster, yes, but he’s using his mental energy and clarity to stay sharp, to make a plan, to keep himself protected and safe, even if that means withholding information from others.

i prefer to keep things close, private, personal. it’s hard for me to share thoughts and feelings and dreams, even when they’re positive – i’m an introvert, but i’m also pretty secretive. i don’t let just anybody in. and in these shadowy days, this fox feels exactly like me – i’ve driven everyone away with my depression and my irritability and my darkness, and am utterly alone, clutching my sword, sad and afraid. everything hangs overhead, and it’s up to me to keep my secrets, stay aware, protect myself. i don’t know if my solitude is helping or making things worse – i hate feeling that i don’t matter to anyone, but i also truly believe it, way down deep. it’s all up to me, because who else is there?

can this be a strength, this tendency to hoard personal details, this unwillingness to share, this desperation to stand on my own even when i’ve already fallen flat on my face? perhaps it can. i’ve seen others write about this card in terms of tact, diplomacy, keeping secrets to protect ourselves and others from unnecessary harm – and that i can do. and as i approach my theme of the month, learning to surrender to my true self, perhaps a bit of caution, protection, full awareness, wouldn’t go astray. these are big, scary themes – knowing how to keep myself quiet and safe could come in very handy this month.

3. my weakness this month

my weakness this month is the ten of wands, a card of burnout, exhaustion, too many projects, scattered passions, stagnant energy. these wands, which once pulsed with fire and flame, are now piled high, their light extinguished. too much of a good thing, IMG_0312overwhelmed, a burden of enthusiasm. we can’t say yes to every single thing – we have to pick and choose where to invest our time, our energy, our passion, or we run out of steam, and things fall apart.

the creator of the wild unknown deck talks about mental and physical burdens, missing the wood for the trees, a weight on ones’ spirit that leads to hopelessness and depression. and that all rings so true right now – i feel heavy, yet empty. hope feels out of reach. my body hurts, my soul aches, i can’t see things that are right in front of me. my depression is a weakness, to be sure, but it’s also a challenge. every single thing i do takes too much energy, and i have to push to complete the smallest tasks. my everyday household chores, caring for my beloved dog, setting up work for the future, trying not to drive my husband completely insane – it’s so much harder than usual.

i hope september isn’t only defined by my depression. i hope i’m not stuck here for too long, trapped in this heavy haze of sadness and loneliness and frustration. i hope i come out the other side stronger, that i haven’t permanently damaged my relationships, that i haven’t alienated too many people, that i haven’t lost work or contacts or momentum. but even if i come out of the storm soon, this card reminds me to not jump back in too quickly, to stay focused and passionate, to channel my energy into the places and projects that truly matter to me. taking the time to reconnect with the world, and working to maintain balance, will be essential for me this month.

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there are challenges here, to be sure. life is difficult right now. but that pulsing light in the center, the wholeness and quiet power of the fountain, is a lovely guiding light for my september. even with swords overhead, with depression and fear and sadness weighing me down, if i can keep moving towards that beautiful surrender, perhaps my september will bring me some peace and healing.

forward motion

swift change, rapid motion, freedom and space – the eight of wands is all about moving towards goals, free of obstacles and struggles. the wands are focused, glowing, pushing all of their energy into that brilliant, sparkling goal just ahead. there’s no more hesitation, no confusion. the destination is in sight, the end is within reach, and things are moving fast.

IMG_1907i love the look and energy of this card – those golden wands are surging forward, straight and strong, moving towards their target. everything in them is centered around that luscious green island, and my eyes can’t help but fix on the perfect little center. the wands know exactly what they want, where they’re going, and the path forward is clear.

it’s almost too fast, too intense, too much. the speed is palpable, the focus absolute, like a car a breath away from skidding out on a slick road. everything feels heightened, and while there appear to be no obstacles, it feels like one little shift could push everything off course. that focus has to remain, or we could lose sight of our goal, find ourselves pointed in the wrong direction yet again.

i’ve been having trouble writing this week, floating in the endless, shadowy sea of depression. it’s impossible, humbling, distressing – i feel empty. this energetic, positive card full of ambitions and dreams realized feels so far from me, it’s completely unreachable. i’m finding comfort in distraction, losing myself in fictional worlds and alternate universes, staying away from friends and family, being quiet, doing anything to forget the person i am. this card feels too personal, speaking of a goal i can’t even see.

but perhaps today, this card is simply a reminder to keep looking forward. at times like this i simply need to do whatever i can to find comfort and rest, even if that may look odd to others, even if my internal monologue is vicious and unyielding, even if i feel useless and worthless and pathetic. i may not be reaching the end of an epic journey, but right now every small victory feels monumental. i’m still breathing, still getting out of bed, still struggling. more than that is too much, but i’ve kept my dog alive, managed to eat a little, am still reading my cards even if i can’t write about it.

i’m still here. even if i’m standing still, i just need to occasionally lift my eyes forward – and that can still feel like motion.

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one last note – in the spirit of the eight of wands and trying to set small goals, i’m going to try to participate in this month’s september tarot challenge, put together by @lionharts on instagram. if you’d like to follow along, find me at @wandering.priestess and see all the participants by following the hashtag #theseptembertarot. see you there!

cutting through

much like the ace/two/three of wands, i feel a bit of anxiety when i pull the ace of swords in a daily reading. clarity is coming, the truth will be revealed, and whether i like it or not, honest insight is on its way. i pulled this card just a few weeks ago, in the wake of charlottesville, and it forced me to continue to acknowledge my privilege as a white woman in a liberal city, even as i wrestle with my struggles as a queer woman whose identity is often lost or erased. what will this fearsome blade cut through today?

ace-of-swordsperhaps it’s natural as a water sign to be uncomfortable with the air, to worry about what that brilliant blade of light and truth will uncover. i’m in such a difficult place, trying not to drown in depression and working hard to not completely isolate myself, and the idea of facing the ugliness of my emotions, gazing unflinchingly at my mistakes and pride, forcing myself to acknowledge things long buried – it sounds like too much to bear. this sword has a sharp point, that zeroes in on its mark and does not miss. it lights up the darkness, offers flashes of brilliance and power and clarity, cuts to the heart of the matter. like all aces, it embodies all the strengths and challenges of the suit, harnessing the power of the air.

and it makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide in the darkness.

but what else can this card represent? the fountain tarot features a brilliant sword that looks to be made of glass, diving straight down into all the colors and tangles to cut a clear path forward. there’s no hesitation, no flinching, no fear – simply force, IMG_1861determination, and power. this sword cuts through everything, clearing the way for truth and strength and success. sometimes we have to clear away all that bullshit to see the soul inside. nothing about this is easy or simple, but it’s not meant to be. clearing through tangled emotions, complicated justifications, excuses and perceptions and all the ways we explain away and struggle to understand our current reality – it’s a painful process, but a necessary one. this sword demands that we assess ourselves, force ourselves to sift through everything to find the truth, and take the time to understand what lies at the heart of these issues. it also suggests powerful new ideas, flashes of insight, fresh approaches to old problems, ambition and strength and determination to see things through to the end. and those are satisfying, appealing ideas, especially in my current state.

a difficult card, to be sure. self-reflection can be a miserable process, revealing things we’d prefer not to see. and the idea of charging forward with that brilliant blade, fearless and strong, feels impossible. but after yesterday’s reading and all of its encouragement to mourn the past and then set it free, this feels like a harsh but necessary reminder to start that challenging, ultimately rewarding work.

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grief & release

though i’m very new to the fountain tarot, it’s remarkable how different it feels in my hands. when i was trying to choose my first deck, i kept coming back to the wild unknown – it felt like i had an immediate emotional connection to it, like we could have a long and fulfilling relationship, like it had wisdom and knowledge and power that it was just waiting to reveal. it felt like water, deep and dark and full of magic. but the fountain tarot feels like air to me, crisp and light and honest, ready to cut to the heart of the matter. perhaps that’s why it’s taken me so long to begin working with this deck, in spite of the fact that i bought it months ago – i had to be ready to deal with this new feeling, a new element in my readings.

true to form, my new deck is clear and concise, sharing its wisdom and waiting for me to catch up. today’s cards are judgment and the five of cups.

IMG_1852my single card draw was judgment, a card of release, reconciliation, and forgiveness. it’s looking directly at our past, understanding the pain and struggles and loss that may be there, fully acknowledging mistakes and heartache and difficulties. it’s accepting our role in those trials, honestly owning what has happened (along with what hasn’t) and our part in it, and then setting it free. i find it feels so much easier sometimes to hang on to that pain, to let it fester into bitterness and anger and frustration – but all that dwelling on the past actually takes so much energy, changing the focus from what’s in front of me back to what’s already happened. this shift isn’t always an elegant or lovely process – rather, this type of self-assessment and openness is often ugly and messy and terrifying. but setting that pain free, letting go of the past, and allowing ourselves to move on is the only way to go forward and begin to heal. there’s such intention in this card, a joyous leap up and out from that stifling cavern. she’s finally free, able to rise up and step into a new, more open future.

i don’t often acknowledge cards that jump out of the deck while shuffling, at least not beyond a quick glance, a nod, and incorporating it back into the deck. but the five of cups leapt out of the deck when i was cutting it, about to draw, which has never IMG_1854happened to me. and seeing these two cards together, i can understand what the cards wanted me to see. the five of cups speaks to grief, despair, an emotional storm. while not every cup is overturned or broken, there has been a significant loss, and it must be mourned. there is a time for sadness, and trying to ignore the sorrow can be a recipe for disaster. it can be so tempting to get lost in that suffering, to let the pain become the only thing that feels real – the man in this image is mourning those spilled cups, but there are two full ones right behind him, waiting for him to turn around and grasp them when he’s ready to move forward. we cannot get so lost in our grief that we forget that all is not lost, that we overlook that which we still have. but taking a beat to feel that sorrow is necessary – this card gives permission to feel that sadness, to move inward, to feel what we feel even when it’s dark and difficult. sometimes, we just have to sit with the despair.

 

IMG_1843together, these cards have a powerful message. the shadows are real – there has been loss, and struggle, and pain. a period of mourning is natural, normal, and acknowledging pain is an important part of moving past it. but without intention, without purpose, this grief cannot be overcome. even though i’m good at putting on a brave face, can play the role that’s required of me at times, my depression will not simply disappear just by ignoring it. and the pain of my past and present cannot be shed if i don’t acknowledge it. i have to face those demons, thoughtfully consider where i’ve been, and find a way to feel and release this pain without drowning in it. freedom is on the horizon, but i have to reach for it.