I stayed up all night playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died. Steven Wright
When I first encountered the Tarot a few years ago, it was absolutely in the spirit of fortune-telling. I was struggling in life and love, unsure of what direction I should take, and nudging the big 4-0. A friend did readings, so I thought, why not?
Despite the many glorious myths, the use of the tarot has a fairly humble history and dates back to the mid 15th Century, where it had its origins in a pack of playing cards.
Knowing her, I imagine they were merely a quaint conversation starter, but I do remember being fascinated with them as a child.
I would choose the fair woman for myself, and hope to be dealt out in the same pile as the fair young man, my childhood sweetheart. That meant he was thinking of me.
As with all things occult, from ‘Bewitched’ to ‘I Dream of Jeannie’, to the ‘Witches of Eastwick’, there were plenty of glamourous role models to testify to the delights of extra-sensory powers.
Remember that the Tarot is a great and sacred arcanum – its abuse is an obscenity in the inner and a folly in the outer. It is intended for quite other purposes than to determine when the tall dark man will meet the fair rich widow. Jack Parsons
I had no idea of its true power. Since then I have been consistently amazed at the messages and guidance I have received through readings, and yet, still not quite making the connection that this wisdom was not inaccessible to me, outside of a professional reading.
Having made no pains in this blog to disguise my issues with personal power, it should not surprise you, dear reader, to learn that I have been slow to really acknowledge and integrate my own agency when it comes to the world of the psyche and healing.
As a direct result of my forays into understanding archetypal patterns, the light bulb finally went on.
Ah! So that tarot, a deck of archetypal images, is a conduit between my subconscious and the collective unconscious. A conduit I can tap into all by myself.
Then I remembered a fabulous article my friend wrote many years ago on the use of the tarot in psychotherapy, called ‘Can the tarot be ‘real’? – a psychotherapist explores the modern relevance of an ancient tool’.
In this article he asks the question, why do people seek out tarot readings for fortune-telling and love predication and then enlist psychologists for their “more weighty” issues? In other words, why don’t we take the tarot seriously as a psychotherapeutic tool?
So how does picking a random card from a tarot deck work? How could it possibly be meaningful as more than a parlour game?
The tarot practitioner, in full awareness of potential for the unconscious to communicate through the archetypal symbols in the cards, asks the seeker to hold a question in their mind – an intention, if you will – and shuffle the cards.
The link between the unconscious and the chosen card can be explained by the principle of synchronicity – the communication, via the medium of the collective unconscious, between mind and matter.
I wish the tarot could be taken out of the world of entertainment and invited into the world of psychotherapy. I too found that a very different sort of person typically saw a tarot reader or fortune-teller from the one who would enlist the services of a therapist. Need the world of academic psychology spurn the experience of mystics and sages? Need the tools of the ancients be useless in the hands of the doctor? Finn McMillan
The interpretation of the personal meaning of the card for the seeker is another matter, and one where the skill and experience of the tarot reader is vital. The reader will use their intuition as well as teasing out the intuitive connections of the card for the seeker. In a most similar fashion to a counsellor, except with the added tool of the archetypal symbol of the chosen cards.
For example a card may have a generic meaning, but may also spark a very personal reaction in the seeker, images in the card, such as animals or other natural elements or colours may be meaningful.
The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
As with most things, I developed quite a fixation with the tarot and divination, despite warnings it should not be used frivolously, I, well, used it frivolously. And also like with most things, I tried it out as an external source of power, I tried to manipulate it, doing multiple readings with multiple card decks, until I liked the answer I got.
Eventually I twigged that it was a tool to investigate my unconscious, not a magic wand, or an idle plaything. It would illuminate my inner guidance and wisdom, but it would not tell me what to do. It may ask me the question of why I continually look outside of myself for answers. Or why I feel the need for definitive and divinitive answers at all. And that is a mighty good question.
All cultures across time have gazed upwards to heavenly bodies and downwards to the earth to seek answers to the big questions of life.
Chinese Taoists read patterns on tortoise shells, which evolved into the I Ching. Vikings consulted the runes. Ancient Roman shamans observed the entrails of slaughtered animals and grains that hens pecked, for divinatory messages.
From indigenous cultures various forms of inner journeying – the Aboriginal Dreamtime or the Native Americans vision quests – to Yahweh’s instructions in the Old Testament for using a sacred set of dice to make decisions in his name, divination is an intrinsic part of all cultural traditions.
It is a testament to their usefulness that these systems have survived to modern times.
Shamans also utilise this link to the unconscious to do their healing work, although often less divinatory, and more visionary in outlook, looking to heal the soul’s trauma rather than see it’s future, shamanism nonetheless works at the same level of the psyche.
This week I had a healing session with a shaman. I have seen healers who use shamanic techniques, but I’d never seen a bona fide shaman before – immersed in the South American indigenous shamanic tradition.
It has always been the role of the shaman to go into an altered state of consciousness and track down where the soul fled to in the alternate realities and return it to the body of the client. Sandra Ingerman
The session was based on the idea of soul retrieval. Basically, those of us who have experienced trauma, particularly early childhood trauma, especially where our physical body was violated or threatened, may have had a soul-splintering experience, where parts of our soul literally fled to the far reaches of the universe, and stayed there.
Sandra Ingerman writes that in psychology this state is called disassociation, but little attention is paid to where the self goes, or how to get it back. Rather it is viewed more as a psychological pattern of coping with trauma.
When we talk about soul we are really talking about light. In returning the soul parts and lost vitality to the client we are really returning light. Sandra Ingerman
One of the many techniques a shaman uses – in addition to singing, chanting, howling, yipping, dancing, stomping, waving leaves around, and smudging you with smoke and essences, it’s a very noisy, vibrant experience – is to blow the spirit into your being. As a passionate devotee of yoga and the Vedic wisdom that ‘breath is life’ I really like this idea.
So I have taken to blowing into my chakras when I do my morning energy work. Imagine it as blowing on the embers of a fire to flare it up. I had a wonderful experience in my Integration chakradance last night using shamanic techniques, but more on that next week.
The Shaman told me that in those moments I describe in meditation, where for want of a better word, I am in a blissed state of oneness and love, that if I set the intention to recall my soul, it will be drawn back to me with a magnetic force.
It is this degree of autonomy and self-healing that I seek, although I intend to continue working with this shaman, I need to know I am powerful in myself, and not dependent of healers to ‘fix’ me.
Can we remain on a rational plane when discussing inner felt experience that speaks to us personally, and with bona fide self-certainty, while at the same time being neutered by the inhospitable hands of logos? Jon Mills
The word ‘Divination’ is derived from the Latin words: divinatio/divinare, meaning to foresee or to be inspired by a god, and obviously related to the word ‘divine’. Do you see where I’m going here? Divination less as fortune-telling, but more as a seeking of union with the divine. And what was my shamanic experience, if not a calling back of my divinity, my spirit? See, and you thought I was off on another tangent entirely!
This week, in my Chakradance training, I have been exploring the crown chakra, or Sahasrara, which means “thousandfold.” This chakra is represented by a thousand-petaled lotus, not literally though; instead, it implies the infinite nature of this chakra, which provides us with our most direct connection with the divine.
The dance of sahasrara is an invitation to the soul to enter the body through the crown chakra in the top of the head. My experience of this deep connection to spirit was a journey into the soul of the world.
I entered the dance with the intention of experiencing oneness with spirit and as the sun was going down outside my window, I imagined flying through those golden rays with bands of angels, through endless amber skies.
From this aimless, albeit highly pleasurable, flying, I found myself at a place that I felt was the source of divinity. Everything went purple – the colour associated with the crown chakra. A purple throne appeared, and somehow I knew I was meeting God. The angels with me bowed on one knee in respect, like knights to their king, and suddenly there was a group of cloaked druids bowing too. I got to my knees. I was surrounded by light, like a rainbow aura in all the colours of my chakras.
Out of the golden and purple light came a lion, a beautiful, graceful, majestic lion, and then as if from the lion itself, came a lioness as well, and they walked to either side of the throne. The lioness came to me and walked into me, straight into my centre, her energy melding seamlessly with mine. Her power was unbelievable, grace, dignity, strength, wisdom, and this deep and profound sense of calm and safety.
She spoke to me as she led me on a journey. It began in a tree, as we sat in its branches, she told me the story of the soul of the world. It all began in Africa, everything began there, then she walked me through snow, across continents, Asia, Russia, Europe, so many ages, ending in Britain, as Queen, to King Richard I, the Lionheart. Through incarnations as a slave, an empress, a farmer, a witch, a queen, a warrior, a priestess, a mother, all different archetypes.
She said to me “you are royalty” and then left me but with the knowledge that her spirit is always within me.
So of course after this fabulous vision I went off on a rather literal tangent. I mean, Richard the Lionheart’s queen, that sounds fab!
I did not know much about Richard I’ s queen, Berengaria of Navarre. For good reason, it seems, he basically met her once, married her, and then ignored her, he was rather busy with the crusades, after all. She joined a convent when he died. Not the grand love story I had in mind. Figures. Maybe I’m being too literal. Maybe it’s archetypal…
Or the great and powerful Sehkmet, the Egyptian lion-goddess, whose breath formed the desert, in the dawn of creation.
Seriously though, this is where Jung saves my arse from disappearing into a blithering idiot about being a reincarnated this, that, and the other. These images and visions are archetypal energies that we all have access to. I am just as much Sehkmet as the guy driving the tram.
It’s psychic wisdom I’m accessing here and I have to drag my ego-mind back from its delusions of grandeur and fantasy, and contemplate, ‘what is the nature of this wisdom I am receiving, what is it I need to access or acknowledge in myself?’
Because really, even if I was the reincarnation of Richard I’s queen or an Egyptian goddess, who cares? I mean I’m sure my 13 year old is not going to pick up his dirty socks for Sehkmet anymore than he does for me.
The lesson for me, and it keeps repeating, to knock, its, way, into, my, thick, skull, is that I have to stop looking for ‘outside’ forces or powers to guide me, to tell me what to do, right from wrong, I must trust my own inner navigation system.
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern. William Blake
So what does all this have to do with love? I must ask as sahasrara is the seventh chakra, and love is my seventh intention.
In fairy tales, love transforms, the lowly is powerful, the prince appears as a frog, the princess as an old crone. A kiss makes them beautiful and desirable to love. Yet, beyond the happy ending we read about, he may yet become an old frog, and she an old crone. Can we still love then?
Do we try to fix our lovers, in the sense of correcting them, yes, but also in the sense of keeping them in a fixed predicable state, so they don’t take us my surprise or challenge our status quo, our stability. Do we aim to control and thus repress the force of love?
In mythos and fairy tales, deities and other great spirits test the hearts of humans by showing up in various forms that disguise their divinity. They show up in robes, rags, silver sashes, or with muddy feet. They show up with skin dark as old wood, or in scales made of rose petal, as a frail child, as a lime-yellow old woman, as a man who cannot speak, or as an animal who can. The great powers are testing to see if humans have yet learned to recognize the greatness of soul in all its varying forms. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Can we ever know really ourselves, let alone another? Is not love then a promise to make that journey into the unknown, to honour each other’s journey, and by necessity, will that not mean our paths must diverge at times?
Love is all around, so why the obsession with romantic love? Well, sex obviously. But it’s more than that. It’s a longing for a deep soul connection and an experience of the divine oneness, orgasm is the easy ticket, but as the mystics will tell you, you can get there alone, and no, I don’t mean like that!
My intuition asks me if what I am really longing for, is a connection with the divine, a deep connection and sense of wholeness.
The desire and pursuit of the whole is called love. Plato
Plato wrote that the original human souls were split into two separate bodies by the gods, in order to make us less powerful, and as such our lives are spent trying to find the other half to make us whole. No wonder I get antsy!
The upside of all this angst and unrequited love is it has led me to tarot, and tarot has led me to explore my unconscious desires.
It’s said that the shuffling of the cards is the earth, and the pattering of the cards is the rain, and the beating of the cards is the wind, and the pointing of the cards is the fire. That’s of the four suits. But the Greater Trumps, it’s said, are the meaning of all process and the measure of the everlasting dance. Charles Williams
So like all my posts, this one has been ruminating for a time. As I have said before, there was good reason that love was my last intention. It does tend to twist me up in knots.
Each week as I hit ‘publish’, and my latest creative endeavour takes its steps in the world, amid a mild panic regarding typos and grammatical errors, is a sense of letting go and moving on to new territory.
Inevitably about two minutes after I publish, I have some revelations, which sometimes conflict with what I just wrote. Initially this caused a great disturbance in me, but now I relish this shifting, this perpetual motion, this realisation, that from moment to moment my being is in a state of flux.
Soon, I feel the germination of a new idea forming, the next intention begins to loom in my inner vision. Over the week I enter, what is now, a familiar pattern. I have some ideas, with which I must enter the ‘creative desert’ as Caroline Myss calls it. Here I experience a nothingness, which can be a terrifying experience as a writer! Yet I see it now as a place of surrender.
Here I give up what I think I know in order to experience a connection with a greater knowing, whether you call that your higher self, the collective unconscious, God, or call it Betty, it doesn’t matter, it is a place of releasing the ego mind to experience something vast and timeless.
During the week, lots of synchronicity happens, people say things, I read things, I dream things, I meditate and chakradance, and I envision things. Then comes the point I sit down and try to put all of this into some coherency. To greater and lesser degrees of success at times, I’m sure.
‘Follow the coincidences’! Life is full of magic once you open yourself to the gift of synchronicity! Imelda Almqvist
What occurs to me is that the beginning of anything, including a relationship, is a process of creation, of creativity. I wonder if its possible to go into this creative desert with our lovers, our friends, our family.
On any given day, it is a new beginning. Can we let go of what we think we know and to be open to a new experience of our beloved, of ourselves, of the relationship?
We human beings, as all of life, are all always in flux, so really, even if you have been married to someone for 50 years, those two people who woke up next to each other today are still new to each other.
I have become somewhat averse to the obsession with ‘change’ in our culture, as it seems a little forced and potentially controlling and ego-based. It suggests to me that I, or someone else, is lacking in some way, when I know we all have infinite depths that we have yet to plumb before we even experience the totality of who we are, so why would we want to change what we do not yet even know?
Yet the idea of constant awakening and evolving to new aspects of our selves, of releasing and surrendering, to allow what doesn’t work to make way for something else, that I like.
Love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many many beginnings- all in the same relationship. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
As a parent, we must allow our children to grow up and evolve from dependent toddlers to independent adults, perhaps we should be allowing the same degree of evolution is all our relationships. Allowing is a beautiful word. Allowing and trust, that we don’t need to grasp on to people to love them, we can hold them gently, and let go when needs be.
I wonder if this need of mine to deeply understand myself and others may just be another tactic in a long line that keeps true intimacy at bay. Just as knowing my feelings and writing about my feelings does not equal feeling my feelings, perhaps knowing about love does not equal knowing how to love, or actually loving.
Oh, love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it. W. B. Yeats
Maybe this is the true nature of the spiritual seeker – the archetype of the seventh chakra – the unending commitment to not knowing, just being what is called for in each present moment. And maybe love is just the ability to offer this unconditionally to another.
So what of love? For now I content myself with the myriad of non-erotic love in my life and the journeying into self. The oracle cards tell me to wait, the turtle, symbol of slow stealth reoccurs, and the lioness is a symbol of divine timing, of knowing when to lie in wait and when to pounce. In the meantime I have painted my nails red, so something glorious is brewing.
Affirmations on the crown chakra from Chakra Anatomy:
I am part of the Divine.
I honour the Divine within me.
I seek to understand and to learn from my life experiences.
I cherish my spirit.
I seek experiences that nourish my spirit.
I listen to the wisdom of universe.
I trust my intuition.
I am open to letting go of my attachments.
I live in the present moment.
I am grateful for all the goodness in my life.
I love and accept myself.
I know that all is well in my world.
I am connected with the wisdom of the universe.
I am open to divine wisdom.
My life moves with grace.
I am at peace.
Jung’s Metaphysics by Jon Mills
For the shamanic healing I had see Shaman vision weaving with Free Spirit www.visionweaving.com/free-spirit/
For more on the Tarot and psychotherapy, Tarotpy, http://dreamsandtarot.com
“The Fortune Teller”, Theodore Von Holst
“The Lady of Shallott”, John William Waterhouse
“Themis”, Michele-lee Phelan
“Triple Goddess with Lion”, Gaelyn Larrick
“The Crystal Ball”, John William Waterhouse
“Les Saltimbanques”, Gustave Dore
“The Fortune Teller”, Cesare Maccari
“Thus Perish the Memory of our Love”, John George Brown