Self reliance

Posted: August 11, 2017 in Spiritual Journey

There’s a line in the pledge I recite as part of my martial arts practice that basically emphasizes self-reliance and self-discipline. It’s always made me a little uncomfortable for a couple of reasons.

First up, if I accept the importance of self reliance at face value… I’m kinda shit at it. I mean, I don’t think I’m the most self absorbed needy person out there, but I know that I often look to others to validate me. More specifically, I recognize that I look to others more during times when I’m feeling less self confident, secure and settled. That is, times where I feel like I’m not being the best version of me.

But on the other side of things, there’s my very firm belief that nobody can exist in isolation. I can count the number of good night’s out I’ve had without other people on the fingers of one hand… following a horrific glazing accident. And the creeping impersonalisation (no that’s not a word) I see around me in the city, the systems that minimise our chances to interact with people, these bother me, as I know they’ve bothered many others before me.

Or maybe I’m just turning into a grumpy old man?

Tarot Meditation: The World

Posted: November 11, 2016 in Spiritual Journey

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So we come to the end of our tour of the Major Arcana. The central figure of the world is a naked female who is bearing two wands. The wand only really features in the Magicin card right at the beginning so here we have, perhaps, a more senior, more accomplished symbol. Looking at the way the figure stands, she could be dancing, or perhaps lying supine on a blue floor. Then again she could be floating in mid air. The way her legs are crossed is similar to the Hanged Man and, were it not for the amazing gravity defying boobs, she could be hanging upside down. She’s surrounded by a ring of leaves that evokes the imagery of a magic circle and in the four corners of the card are four different creatures. An eagle, a lion, a bull and a person (possibly male?). The first two fit very nicely with representations of air and fire. Leaving, I suppose, the bull and the person to cover water and earth? Except I’m not quite sure which way around they would go, nor what particular traits join them to these elements (alternatively there could be no elemental symbolism and perhaps I’m just trying too hard.

Tarot Meditation: Judgment

Posted: November 7, 2016 in Spiritual Journey

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There’s something very ‘off’ about this card. And it’s not just the sickly grey-green colour of the people in it, although that certainly is part of it. So, what we have is a scene of the last judgment, judgment day, the rapture, whatever you wish to call it. But all the people in the scene are rising from their graves. Including the children, and the adults don’t appear very old. This is rather odd and gives an unpleasant hint that something has happened to kill people before their time. The colour of their skin is the same as the tombs they are emerging from and the clouds of the angel (and in my printed card, very very similar to the mountains in the background). This links the image of the resurrected people to the cold hard stone. You very much get the impression that you wouldn’t want to touch them, that they will be cold, clammy, other.

The other really ‘other’ thing about this card is the look of joy on the faces of the resurrected. Everyone’s arms outstretched and gleeful, which feels very odd when you consider the title of the card. I think it’s fair to say that anyone who says they’re looking forward to judgment day (or the zombie apocalypse etc…) kind of automatically assumes which side of things they’ll be on. Personally I’ve no delusions and know I’m the chap who’ll be clubbed to death with a tin of baked beans outside a burning supermarket on day two of the apocalypse…

So welcoming judgment feels strange to me, perhaps adding to the sensation of separation. The dead have nothing else to aspire to or await, so judgment becomes welcome? It’s also worth noting that this card echoes the form of the Lovers (big bloody winged angel looming over people) with perhaps implications of what love inevitably leads to. It also sits in a very different place to Justice. If I were to draw a line between the tow I’d put Justice as being a practical, physical, real world card; whereas Judgment has echoes of being called to account on more spiritual matters.

So, one of the things I’m doing at the moment is trying to read up on plants, herbs, trees and mushrooms. The more I think about it, the more aware I am that there is a huge untapped bounty of nourishing, helpful and occasionally dangerous life all around us. And I want to know it better, to be able to, where appropriate, make better use of these things that would otherwise go to waste.

It started last September with my spending two days elderberry picking. In part it was two days of learning how to identify and spot elderberries and I ended up with what was hopefully a non-toxic collection of berries. But that was one plant, and even then it took me two whole days to go from looking for the berries to identifying the leaves and finally spotting them from their bark and general shape. One plant. But there are hundreds of common plants, trees, shrubs. And I can’t spend that long on each surely.

So I bought a book, except that didn’t help because the pictures were too vague and same-ey, and it’s all very well reading about two dozen different plants butĀ  there’s nothing to contextualize the reading then it’s all just quietly shoveled into that part of the brain that deals with train timetables and siblings’ birthdays.

This is a non-trivial problem and it leaves me in an embarrassing position. When walking through the park a life-long Londoner friend can name many of the trees that I, one raised in the countryside, am at a loss to identify. It’s not like there’s a simple quick fix either, identifying objects in images is a task that even the world’s leading computers and AI systems struggle with. It seems like this is a task that cannot be done quickly or easily. It’s a difficult path, which will entail countless hours of learning piecemeal and through painful, tedious study. But it’s one I’m so looking forward to.

Tarot Meditation: The Sun

Posted: May 10, 2016 in Tarot

RWS_Tarot_19_SunI’ve been reluctant to write about this card for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m ashamed to admit that, during my week of carrying this card with me, I managed to lose it. I was bustling through Victoria station when it managed to slip from my pocket. I realised only as I was approaching the ticket barrier and had to make a split-second choice between retracing my steps through the rush hour crowd looking for it, or dashing for the next train. I chose the train; and feel it was the wrong decision. My deck now has no The Sun card, but two Judgments… a fitting penalty?

My reluctance goes beyond this though. I think in part it’s also because the one thing this card screams to me is “parenthood”. I oscillate between indifference and strong aversion to the idea of having children, which echoes in my personal life, but that’s material for another post. So, in this card, beyond the obvious young child (boy or girl? It’s impossible to say) we have the watchful face of the sun and the horse. This strikes me as being a sort of dualism fo parenthood, the radiant life giver and protector combined with the downtrodden dutiful labourer who must carry the child through life, unseen, uncelebrated. Is it any coincidence that the horse is grey and blurs into the background wall behind it?

Obvious symbolism is the sun (duh) and the sunflowers. Numbers fetishists (again, I have a whole separate post on that subject) can note that there are eleven straight beams and ten wiggly beams coming out of the sun. The only other thing I’d add is something that I missed for a while. The huge rippling orange/red banner is actually being held up by the child. It’s surprising to see so small a figure carrying such a big standard, and I can;t help but feel there’s parenthood symbolism here too, about the burden of identity every child is born with.

Tarot Meditation: The Moon

Posted: April 10, 2016 in Tarot

RWS_Tarot_18_MoonAs with The Star, most of my interpretation on this is on the grounds of loose impressions rather than a sense of really having ‘grasped’ this one. Much of my interpretation comes down to the expression ont he face of the moon, a female face that looks, quite frankly, pissed off. Beneath her two wild dogs are baying and a lobster is crawling out fo the sea. Between the two dogs lies a path that runs from the sea into the mountains in the background. The interpretation that springs to my mind is that The Moon’s frustration comes from the preoccupation of the dogs, they are more interested in the source of the light than what it illuminates. The parallels to occult learning, or indeed learning in general are obvious. The Moon lights the way but don’t let yourself get distracted by looking at where the light comes from rather than the path it lays visible before you.

Other elements that are at least curious: TheĀ  Moon is depicted as a yellow circle, with a crescent inside it. There are (for number junkies) 32 points radiating from the moon. In addition there are fifteen yellow flecks beneath it and hanging in the air above the dogs. Lastly, there are two towers flanking the card. The masonry is clearly the same as seen in other buildings in the Major Arcana, most obviously The Tower.

I’m still not sure what to make of the lobster though.

Letting Go

Posted: April 6, 2016 in Spiritual Journey

Black candles and camphor; the symbol of Saturn carved with a special blade. Words spoken, intentions stated, cards consulted time after time after time.

The tower inverted.

Lip service and advice, well-meaning friends; the ones who’ll tell you what they truly think even when it’s the last thing you want to hear. Pages of note-paper covered in a rainbow of thoughts. Banishing over and over.

All of this and more. And yet it does;t really change anything Doesn’t stop the hurt, the doubt, the poring over expressions and words, trying to trace it back to what went wrong, where I misstepped, whether it was all in my head.

Some days things just fucking suck, and no amount of incense can change that.