Archive for the ‘Spiritual Journey’ Category

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 but  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.

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.

RWS_Tarot_17_StarMoving on from the Major Arcana’s dumping ground we now begin the astrological section with The Star. I’ll admit that this was a tough one for me, I struggled to grasp the import of what is here depicted and would heartily suggest looking elsewhere to find commonly accepted meanings. Nevertheless, there are a few thoughts. Once again we have a naked figure. These are relatively few in the arcana, and this is the first that is actively doing something. Kneeling down the figure is staring intently as it carefully pours water both over land and over a pool. Eight eight-pointed stars appear overhead and behind the figure is a tree with an exotic bird sitting in it. So much for the card’s contents. There are echoes of Temperance here, with the figure wielding two cups of water and being placed with one foot on land and one on (or in?) water. But where Temperance appears to stand above, detached and not plunging wholly into the water, The Star is bent low, seemingly almost diving into the pool, her cups are upturned, giving the water to land and sea.

So what do I see here? I see intent, attention, giving and an eagerness to push deeper into something.

RWS_Tarot_16_TowerThe Tower comes at the end of what I’m tempted to call either the Major Arcana’s dumping ground or, at very least, its disappointing mid-season. Following on from Death, Temperance and The Devil we have the card that’s probably the worst single omen in the deck, a symbol of calamity. A tall stone tower on a high peak is truck by lightning and set ablaze. A giant crown topples and two figures are sent plummeting earthward.

The two figures show very different responses. The crowned figure on the right topples backwards and bears an expression of despair and resignation, as if saying “I knew this would happen.” The figure on the left, looks downwards at the approaching earth, his face written with disbelief and horror. One can almost hear him trying to bargain his way out of the situation. Yellow flecks of gold or rain or fire speckle the sky and the figure on the left seems almost to be grasping for one of these.

I’m fortunate, I suppose, in that I’ve yet to receive this card in an upright position, more typically I see it inverted. When it appears Rx, the windows of the tower appear like a face, weeping flames (and possibly either bleeding or with tongue hanging out).The difference between the two? Perhaps in the inverted depiction the figures drift off to safety while only the artifice they created is destroyed.

“It’s a great tragedy that, by and large, we tend to only get one set of genitals and one set of social conditioning to fuck with.”
Charlie J Forrest

One of the steady presences on my Facebook feed at this time of year is numerous posts highlighting how Easter is, for the most part, a bastardised version of different pre-christian festivals. I guess it’s kind of a positive that people are challenging the standard narrative and that posts like that do raise th overall awareness of paganism and other alternative spiritual paths. But they lack something in coherence. I’ve seen posts in the last week saying that we derive the term Easter both from the germanic deity Eostre and from the Mesopotamian deity Ishtar. Some of these theories are more plausible than others (I mean, look at how much else was stolen from the germanic peoples, like most of our language etc); but the common thread among these seems to be less the specifics of where it’s coming from and more simply asserting that the Christian interpretation is wrong.

I’ve read a couple of blog posts (here and here) talking about deliberately subverting a religious belief for the purposes of kink. I think it’s fair to say that I see eye-to-eye with neither of the writers on this subject, but the conflict between the two is both very natural and a bit of a reflection of my own issues with religion growing up.

I was (am?) a second generation atheist. My parents were rebels in their day and I was raised without inheriting an expected religious dogma. Whatever I wanted to do was fine with my parents. I was free to make my own choices… well almost. You see I, like so many others, was sent to a Church of England school. The sort of place where it didn’t intrude too much into day-to-day life, except we’d sing hymns during assembly, take part in harvest festivals, and that I quietly spent most of my childhood assuming that I was going to go to hell.

With hindsight it’s not hard to see why I identified as an atheist for so long. Things only went further in this direction when I ended up at a university with a very active (i.e. agressive) christian union that spent four years gleefully trying to convert me and with whom I had many interesting and detailed conversations that always seemed to fall apart when I refused to engage with circular arguments.

The upshot is that I am very opinionated and very able to engage in detailed deconstruction of Christianity, or at least the branches of it and interpretations that I’ve experienced first hand through school and university. Christianity is therefore the religion I feel most able to comment on, most confident in deconstructing, happiest to dismiss and, perversely, the symbolism of which is also the one that tends to stick most in my mind.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well how about my fondness for the Hellblazer comics, my favourite country and western song being “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” or, for that matter, a huge fondness for any faustian tale. It’s not that it’s what I believe, but that it’s part of my background and, as a common background with many people around me, can be a quick and dirty way of relating an idea. If I tell someone from a similar background to myself that the Devil is in the detail they know what I mean in a way that an off-the-cuff reference to Ishtar just won’t manage.

As for bringing religion into my sex life. Well spirituality and sex is a discussion for another time (but I’ve been thinking a lot about rope as a means of ‘raising energy’ lately). What I will say is that I don’t particularly bring religious themes or subversions into my own play; not out of respect, but simply that it doesn’t do anything for me. To put it bluntly, I don’t think religion did a good enough job of fucking with me for me to want to return the favour.