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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confidence & courage

i’m still struggling with writing letters to my family, and i’ve been obsessing over it all week. i decided today to do a larger spread to help me find confidence and courage, in the hopes that i can finally finish this difficult task.

this spread is from beth at little red tarot, and while it was designed to help build personal confidence on a more general level, i’m going to use it for my specific situation.

1. the root of my insecurity & fear

four-of-pentacles

the four of pentacles, a card of possession and control. this is not a card i’ve worked with before, but its themes are clear: brilliant threads hold the pentacles in tight formation, letting nothing else in. energy from the outside bounces right off, closing off the spaces between. the lines are so rigid and stiff that they do create a lot of security and protection, but perhaps this is simply an illusion. everything cannot be controlled – no one has that much power, even when we think we do.

it made me nervous to only have one card in this first position – after all, coming out as bisexual to my conservative brother and religious in-laws isn’t exactly a simple scenario, and there are many reasons for my fears and worries. but ultimately, control is a big part of this – i have to give them part of myself, hand them my heart with trembling hands, and hope that they don’t crush it. i have no control over their reaction, their feelings, their potential for anger or fear or sadness or betrayal. it’s taken me a long time to get this point, and they deserve space to think and feel and react too. but once i reveal my truth, all i can do is trust them not to destroy it.

2. how to overcome these feelings

ten-of-cups

a colorful card of harmony, light, and positivity, the ten of cups radiates energy. every cup is giving and receiving, sending out beauty and taking in love. this is a card of completion, of balance, of wholeness, and it reminds us to stay open and joyful, sharing our blessings with those around us and seeing the good everywhere.

i’m not typically known as a positive beacon of colorful light (my power cards below back me up on this), but the sense of karma and balance here is impossible to deny. and remembering how much i love the people in my life, how i try to offer kindness and support to those that need it, makes me hopeful that if i can continue to be positive and loving, i will receive that back. with only a few exceptions, when i’ve come out (which for me is always scary, every single time, to every single person) i’ve been accepted with open arms. friends and strangers alike have made me feel like i belong, and remembering their generosity gives me strength too.

3 & 4. my main sources of personal power

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seeing the devil and the hermit as my cards of personal power is, frankly, hilarious. these are some big, powerful cards, and while i imagine plenty of others might be horrified by them, these boys feel just right to me.

let’s start with the devil. i think it’s easy to recoil at the sight of this card, but i’m not afraid of his energy. as a scorpio and a water sign, there’s always a bit of darkness, mystery, wickedness present in me. i don’t seek out evil, but i definitely live in the grey areas, trying to see all sides, working the angles. and the devil can help us to challenge our assumptions, look at things differently, try to avoid snap judgements. temptation doesn’t have to be bad, as long as you understand it. making your own choices can be a strong path, one that may look wrong to others but feels right for you. and indulging can be a beautiful thing, as long as it doesn’t take over.

i can also see this card as a reference to difficulties in my life, from my very conservative, religious upbringing to my severe depression to my challenges as a married bisexual woman to my unusual sleeping problems. i’ve definitely had my feet in the fire, had to resort to deception and denial in order to keep myself safe, had to make impossible choices that weren’t always the right ones. but it’s made me stronger IMG_0361and more powerful than i was before. and while no one chooses to go through difficult things, the end result can be something wonderful.

my second strength is the hermit, a card i love. i’m definitely an introvert, someone who prefers intimate gatherings to giant parties, someone who prefers a book and a glass of wine to a loud venue, someone who needs a lot of personal time to recharge and consider. the hermit trusts his own inner light, relies on it to reveal the path he should follow. and while i do need the love and support of others sometimes, i’ve had to face most of my challenges alone. no one can make me sleep, or not hurt myself, or change my identity to something more “acceptable.” no one can take away my past hurts or my present fears or my future challenges. just like now – no one else can come out for me. i have to do this myself, on my own strength, in my own way.

 

5. how to tap into that power to build confidence

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the fool, another card i haven’t worked with before. represented in the wild unknown as a baby bird, eager to take his first steps away from his secure nest, and speaks of new beginnings, spontaneity, potential, and inexperience. this bird is excited but naive, with no idea what is ahead. she exists entirely in the present. the future is limitless, sparkling with possibility. as carrie mallon says, “this card speaks of pure, unbridled potential. in order for that potential to take shape, risks are required. taking a leap doesn’t necessarily guarantee a favorable outcome. but if you never leap, you remain stuck on the precipice, never fully immersing yourself in all that life has to offer.”

there’s a lot to unpack here. but something that i immediately noticed is that the devil and the hermit are both stationary, whether standing in flames or retreating into a shell. they’re self-aware, sure of themselves, sometimes to their detriment. the fool, however, is moving forward, even if it’s into a completely unknown place. she’s about action, taking that big leap, being open and ready and saying yes. she may be young and inexperienced, but she also isn’t shackled by fear or expectations. if i can look to that trust and love and beauty from the ten of cups, and channel the strength and assurance from my power cards, perhaps it’ll give me what i need to take that big step forward.

6. something i can do right now

ace-of-pentacles

so what do i do? the ace of pentacles is all about new beginnings and growth, planting a seed and letting it take root. this card reminds us to stay grounded and consistent, to commit to the process, to activate the resources we have and the ones we may have forgotten.

aces are always brimming with potential. and this ace of the earth, with its stable growth rings and blooming branches and tough outer layer, speaks to me of strength and balance. i need to remember that my letters are the start of something, rather than the end – i’m beginning a conversation based on truth and honesty, and need to keep faith in the process. i have resources – supportive friends, a wonderful therapist, an online community, and my beloved cards. they can give me strength and courage, and help me remember why i’m doing this at all.

this is a fascinating, complicated, challenging spread. but it reflects so much of who i am, what i need, and why i’m pushing myself to come out to my family. i’m grateful for the wisdom here, for the honesty and difficulties presented by the cards.

time to write some letters.

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death (of the ego)

it’s been a difficult few days, and i’ve missed my morning readings. i hoped to find some clarity and calm, but instead have pulled some major, serious cards that will require a lot of processing. my card for today is death.

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rather than using more traditional imagery like the grim reaper cloaked and waiting, the wild unknown uses simple remains of a small bird. we see the literal decay, the end of life, and the change from what was a living creature into something completely different. death doesn’t have to be literal in tarot – rather, it can be a phoenix rising from the ashes, becoming reborn, changing and altering into a new being. something in my life needs to come to an end, to make way for a new chapter.

this could be a difficult card, and it’s not one i was expecting to see this morning, but there’s something so simple and final and real in this card. there’s no fighting it, no postponing it, no ignoring it – death just is. there’s a sense of letting go, of beautiful surrender, that’s unavoidable. and while i’m not completely sure what ending i should be seeking, it’s clear that i can’t pretend it’s not necessary.

hoping for clarity, i instead pulled another huge card: the devil. i’ve worked with this IMG_0367wicked one before, but as a clarifying secondary card, i think his meaning can change. i would love to read this combination as surrendering negativity and temptation, that it’s time for me to let go of the bad stuff to make way for the good, but i have a feeling that the cards are saying more than that. is my depression a crutch? do i cling to it in order to avoid dealing with my issues? have i been letting myself drown in pain and sorrow because it’s easier than seeking a solution? are there toxic people or things in my life that i’m ignoring? or is it me that’s toxic?

in researching this pairing of death and the devil, the same phrase kept emerging: the death of the ego. rather than some impending tragedy or sudden shift, death is a natural but unavoidable reality. but in tarot, death can be a choice. i can change elements of who i am, can choose to be different, can let go of my specific perception of myself and instead seek to discover who i truly am. but the devil can show fear, the temptation to run, and represents those negative patterns that we can’t escape. fear is such a strong motivator, and can be a huge barrier to change. and i have such strong, miserable patterns that i cling to, whether i want to or not.

these are big cards, strong energies, and it’s a lot to take in. but the cards are not holding back here, which means i need to be brave enough to listen to what they have to say.

 

the devil in the details

apparently starting this online, open journey is bringing out some intense cards for me to work through. today’s daily reading card was a big one: the devil.

the-devil

it’s hard not to feel a bit wary of this card, in spite of my determination to not label cards good or bad. i want to be open and intuitive, and let the cards speak to me in each moment, rather than having harsh, instinctive reactions to the cards. and this devil, with his burning hooves and that sly, wicked glint in his eye, is certainly challenging those goals today.

many of my references speak of the devil in the same light: he represents ugly relationships with people or substances, can indicative negative patterns, bondage, temptation, materialism, or indulgence. and while it seems that his main mission is to point out unhealthy patterns and bring awareness to what traps we may be in, it doesn’t always have to be negative – the devil can also encourage us to challenge our assumptions, and to take a more critical look at how time and energy are being spent.

personally, this card is a bit confusing – i’ve been in kind of a haze the last few weeks, having trouble focusing on much of anything, lacking energy, feeling unmotivated and uninspired. i’ve been pushing myself to spent more time writing, and more time with the tarot, which don’t seem like negative habits on their own but perhaps are my way of escaping dealing with the realities of my life.

i’m not sure if other readers, whether new or experienced, do this, but when i pull a card that i can’t see a clear meaning in, i’ll occasionally pull a second clarification card. sometimes this becomes immensely helpful, immediately shifting my awareness to a new reading or aspect of the original card, and furthering my understanding when i take them as a pair. i pulled the son of cups.

son-of-cups

i’ve always identified very strongly with the suit of cups. the son is a fascinating card to pull alongside the devil, since he’s known for jumping in too fast and too deep, missing nuances and details, getting a little cocky about his abilities and perhaps rushing. cups are all about water, emotion, depth, connections, and while the son has a bit more experience and sensitivity than his younger sister, he can also turn self-indulgent, ignore the logic of a situation, and spend too much time with his emotions.

i started therapy this week, and also started two blogs – one a private journal, and one this public tarot journal. i’ve also spent a lot of time writing, both about my personal journey as well as my spiritual one. and while i don’t believe that these habits are inherently negative, the combination of the devil and the son of cups points to perhaps too much time naval-gazing. introspection can be good, and healthy, and learning to talk about my emotions and myself is something that i hate but have been trying to improve. these cards are telling me that jumping in head first, and spending so much time focusing on myself, isn’t the way to go. i still need to get outside, get active, enjoy my life, and not spend all of my time in front of my computer or buried in books. tarot is a beautiful tool, and writing can be extremely constructive and helpful, but i can’t get so lost inside these things that i forget to do anything else.