A a full time professional reader, I admit, I can get mighty pedantic about things. Splitting tarot hairs with colleagues is a love of mine and I am no stranger to debating the finer points of tarot and tarot readings.
Like any reader, I also have my pet peeves and as my 2nd grade report card mentioned, "Jenna is opinionated." So here I share with you, dear reader, my opinions about white washing tarot specifically as it pertains to the Death card.
It is very common in tarot books, among tarot readers to say as soon as the Death card is cast, "Oh, yeah this is Death... but actually it really just means Transformation!" Quick to lessen the blow of the message of death, we gloss over the pain, heartache, hard reality that is the Death card and I think when we do this we are disrespecting the energy, intent and message that this card may have for us.
It is not uncommon to find tarot decks that have completely vanquished Death forever from our tarot shores, rewriting the card to mean Transformation or Phoenix Rising, "Don't worry about any of that Death business because you will rise from the ashes, girlfriend!!" Doreen Virtue's Fairy and Angel decks have done away from the messiness of Death altogether--she renamed them as Release.
The only way I actually knew she was indeed replacing the Death card with Release is because she kept the number placement that is traditional for Death: number 13. It is no coincidence that Death is in the 13th place for 13 has long been viewed as a bad luck number throughout Europe for centuries. If Death actually means Transformation or Release and was so very positive, why would it hold the 13th position?
I will say, however, that she does use Azreal who is the angel of Death, but this is done in the kindest most white washed way possible.
The emphasis here is again, on moving on. But I argue that this is not the intent of Death. The message of Death is endings, not new beginnings.
Tarot comes out of a time where 2 out of 3 children died, if someone lived to 50 that was considered a ripe elder age. There was disease, accidents, superstition and a lack of hygiene awareness or even what we would consider basic medical knowledge. Death was as close to the midaevil person as was life, and it was because of Death's intimate association with their lives that they felt the business of living more keenly. Death is a part of life, death hurts, death sucks, death is sad and death comes for everyone. This is the message of the Death card. It is a card of endings, not beginnings.
We modern humans with our technology and vaccines and seatbelts, we have done a great job distancing ourselves from Death as much as possible. Unlike our earlier ancestors however, we no longer dress the bodies of our dead, we rarely perform the service of burying our own.
Death has become sanitized, de-ritualized, and death only comes to the unlucky or aged. In our quickness to leave Death behind, we also wish to forget what he brings and the thought of Death makes us so uncomfortable we would just rather pretend he didn't exist at all.
In client sessions, I find Death to play the role of a hard stop. This relationship is ending. That job is done. That person is passing away. Death does not mince words, does not white wash its message but its message, being completely honest, is actually a kindness.
Often clients come see me when all the easy options are gone and all that is left are hard choices. Clients also see me when their higher self knows something is going to end, but their ego is still looking for some possible way to turn aside whatever it is they do not want to endure. Death is the loud and insistent voice, loud enough to be heard over the din of ego and self delusion, to prepare oneself for an ending. Perhaps that ending is not redeemed by transformation, perhaps it is just an ending...and that is sometimes all we get. Because that is life, and life is confoundingly both tragic and miraculous at the same time.
Now, I think there is a better card that speaks to Transformation, and that is Judgement. I never understood why Death was the card chosen to speak to the act of Transformation when in all honesty, Judgement does a much better job of holding that archetype. So let us allow the cards to speak and stop rewriting what they are. If tarot means to talk about transformation and moving onto new pastures then we must trust that tarot will reveal them (Judgement or 8 of Cups as an example). But when tarot shows us the Death card, it means death.
This... Ladies and Gentlemen...is what Transformation and Release look like.
Let us allow the hard work of seeing what is be what is. It is always the difficult message, the hard yet honest note from the Universe that circumvents our ego, allows us to see clearly without pride or defense, and accept gracefully what is.
Last year I spent two glorious weeks in Britain and Scotland. I spent my days wending my way through castles both restored and crumbling, traipsing through field, hedge and moor; I expected to see some ghosties on my way through. I mean, aren't the British isles known for their ghostly activity?
As an intuitive, I can usually feel if there is some spiritual activity happening in the area around me. I think most of us can. From the inexplicable feeling of unease, to the sense of being watched in an empty room, most of us have had an odd feeling we couldn't put our finger on from time to time. But what takes a casual observer to a full on believer of spiritual activity is when those poltergeists are about, the noisy spirit that is able to make changes in our physical world that we cannot explain. You never quite believe it, until it happens to you.
I have had several of these poltergeist experiences in my past so when they happen now, my kneejerk reaction isn't to run, but to investigate. I stay in the room, I ask questions, I talk to the spirit and see if there is anything I can do or help with.
While I do that, the sweat down your sides feeling of terror can sometimes be hard to fight off and it was that feeling I was left with as I hung out in the Doll Room at the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh, right on the Royal Mile. It was not a place I expected to have an encounter and honestly I was just curious about the toys and excited that the entrance was free!
The Museum of Childhood is 5 stories of games, hobbies, dolls, books and various toys throughout the centuries. It is a wonderful little museum and when I arrived it was fairly quiet being about an hour before closing. I started on the 5th floor and worked my way down before finding myself on the 3rd floor, the floor of Dolls. Imagine that, a whole floor of them, case after case of dolls.
The room of dolls has an instant creep vibe. It has cases upon cases of dolls from the renaissance to modern times and from every region of the globe. At first glance, you might think these are just dolls that little girls play with. But the selection also includes collectibles, fascinating mechanicals from the early 1800's, on up to modern Bernstein Bears and the like.
I decided to stay in the room despite feeling creepy and noticed that the few people who did cycle through did not stay long. They breezed in and out, probably picking up on the same creepy vibe I did. But when I encounter that feeling, I investigate.
I lingered in a certain corner because I noticed that some of the dolls were the exact same ones my Mother had. My Mother lived in Scotland in the 60's, so I do not know if it was just what was popular locally at the time, or coincidence. But I was feeling nostalgic and touched.
In that corner there was also this Shirley Temple doll. I was also reminiscing about how my Mother liked Shirley Temple and when she was a little girl, people often remarked about how she looked like her with her curly hair. I was standing in this corner for about 10 minutes reading all the info and reminiscing about my Mom when all the sudden, right before my very open, alert, sober eyes... Shirley Temple's eyes opened... okay, will you. just. look. at. that. doll?!?! Naw, girl... nope to the nope degree.
Shirley Temple had one of those eyes that, when you lay her down, her eyes close and when she sits up, her eyes open. However, her eyes were closed the entire 10 minutes or so while I was standing there. And then, all of the sudden, they popped open! I didn't move, we are not talking about some latent vibration from the floor, no one else (of course, right?) was in the room but myself. My eyes could not unsee what they saw, and I knew deep within my soul that this was no coincidence.
Now, my first instinct was to hightail it out of there. I got clammy from fright and my inner deer was like, "GTFO of there, girl!" But, I am no noob when it comes to spiritual investigations so I stayed.
I called out, "Hello. I saw you, will you come out to play?" Making a guess as to who, or what, might be there. Has to be a child, right?
I lingered a long time but I did not see anything more except feel a presence. I took my time, I pulled up a chair and more closely examined the cases in the room. One case was called, 'Dolls Around the World' and it was here that I found very interesting things...
No children's dolls were these, but powerful dolls, dark dolls, dolls that should not be kept here...
The label calls this a voodoo doll from the West Indies, and that may be true, but the paper attached to it, is in Nordic runic script, and points to a more local use. My eye was drawn to this doll first out of familiarity, but it was not, I suspect, the cause of trouble.
Now this one was interesting. A Peruvian 'painted figure' found in a child's grave. Was it a doll? Did it have some other purpose? It was not until writing this post that I googled this museum. I found several articles that claim that people have heard the sound of children crying from this very room! Alright, so I have established a history of poltergeist activity.
The stories attribute the crying to children who died but left their dolls behind, but perhaps there is more to that story than originally revealed.
A second google search reveals that these are, more correctly, Chancay (named for the people who lived on the Peruvian coast before the Incas) people and these Burial dolls have an unknown function. Child's toy, companion to the after world; we do not know, and neither does this museum. What we do know is that it was grave robbed.
But we are not hardly done, and I had not yet found the 'culprit' of the activity. This doll, a Sudanese maternity doll 'bought from witches, magicked with fertility spells is no plain effigy.
There is power in these dolls, no children's playthings are these... and while these are all certifiably alarming as to the possible origin of my disturbance... They all pale in comparison this last doll.
This doll below, I believe and felt, was the source of suffering...
Just look at the doll first and tell me you don't feel...something very dark. I know I did.
My eye went to this guy in the case and i felt electricity shoot through me
. This dark and very mysterious thing.
According to the plaque above, this is a "spirit doll' whose skirt hides the box which contains the spirit of a dead chief of the "Achewa' tribe. I say again, a trapped soul.
The moment I placed my eyes on this Chief. I understood that this was the home of disturbance. I do not know the story, the cause, the why or how it got into this museum but I know he or she doesn't belong there.
It feels so incredibly sad.
He or she belongs back with the Chewa where they may put his or her soul to rest--There is no 'achewa tribe' but there is a Chewa tribe--Even in this, the cultural ignorance is hard to miss.
It has to be one of the creepiest things (and I have had many) I have experienced. But mostly, it made me depressed.
As colonizers, many developed nations own and imprison artifacts that are not their right to have. This guy needs to go home, and there will be ongoing problems with that room and that museum until they do. Perhaps this is what I have been asked to do.
This little lady has teeth! Isn't she special? Apparently back in the 1800s they went for realism, but why are her teeth pointed?
I know you want to leave, Pumpkin, and I wish I could take you.
Usually there is a reason for poltergeist activity. Often, that reason is suffering. Find the source of suffering, and you free a soul. Next time something spooky happens to you, don't run, face it and ask, "How can I help"
Happy April Fools' Day!
April Fools has deep historical origins, as anything of Archetype does, replaying, recycling, and rebirthing throughout human society, cultures and migration for as long as we can find evidence for them. The Fool is particularly powerful in its archetype on human consciousness, so much so that our Fool gets his very own day each April first.
April Fool's day can be reasonably found in historical articles from the middle ages throughout Europe, the day has shifted from late March to April first but the sentiment is similar, Here is what we know for sure:
In 1508, French poet Eloy d'Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally "April fish"), a possible reference to the holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on 1 April. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as "Fooles holy day", the first British reference. On 1 April 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to "see the Lions washed". (Wiki)
Even earlier, ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated the feast of Hilaria (doesn't that sound like so much fun?!) Celebrated on March 25th, possibly along with the start of spring to honor Cybel, So it seems that what was once a joyful noise of people acting probably pretty silly, filled with frisky spring fever eventually morphed into the April's Fools day pranking that exists today.
In tarot, the Fool's meaning has shifted over the centuries. Originally, the Fool was literally a fool, a silly or dumb man or a man acting stupid for the comedic enjoyment of others. Today, the Fool denotes more of a letting go of control, self-consciousness and embracing everything that life has to offer. The fool's appearance in a reading is a serious call to let go of the reigns and let the Universe provide. Being mindless and spirit-full.
Less in the western cultures anymore, but in many others, the Fool does act as a spiritual Clown. A silly shaman that through laughter of himself and others, making that joyful noise we get closer to God. I think it is deeply sad that our modern life has only one little tiny april fools prank vestige of what is a very powerful and wise archetype, the Fool.
For example, in Hopi tradition, there is the Heyoka, the sacred clown is still very much activated in this culture:
Principally, the heyókȟa functions both as a mirror and a teacher, using extreme behaviors to mirror others, thereby forcing them to examine their own doubts, fears, hatreds, and weaknesses. heyókȟa also have the power to heal emotional pain; such power comes from the experience of shame — they sing of shameful events in their lives, beg for food, and live as clowns.
They provoke laughter in distressing situations of despair and provoke fear and chaos when people feel complacent and overly secure, to keep them from taking themselves too seriously or believing they are more powerful than they are. (wiki)
So how can you embrace the call of the Fool today?
Here are some ideas:
*Go to a Comedy show,
*Sign up for Laughter Yoga (truly, the Fool is alive and well among this merry troupe!)
*When was the last time you really laughed at yourself?
*Do something silly, meaningless, joyful, even 'dumb', who cares whose watching?
*Turn off your GPS, and guess a new route home today from work, remember what it feels like 'not to know' be comfortable with that ambiguity, look at a beautiful new place you've never seen before in the process.
*Eat ice cream for lunch.
*Sing loudly with the windows down
*Wear mismatching socks or a T shirt inside out or backwards
*Stop taking yourself so seriously, darlin, the Sacred Fool has come to play today!
There, I said it, Tarot does not tell the future.
Revoke my cards, burn me at the stake, embroil me in a 3 day op ed;
I stand by my statement.
To clarify, I believe that our definition of 'future' is off. How can we measure for something that does not exactly exist, or at least exist in the way we perceive it?
First, let's look at the standard definition:
“To Tell the Future” by popular culture usually means:
So understandably, many people come to a tarot reading with the above underlying assumptions and those assumptions frame their expectations“When will Mr. Right come? When will I find a bag of money? When does little Johnny get a sibling?” When. When. When.
When is the wrong question. 'When' is based on an assumption on the effect time has on our lives.
First, there is the scientific model:
The idea of time being a linear aspect: past, present, and future is largely a construct; a perception based on our biological ability to sense it as well as our cultural framework around it. In fact, science actually has a hard time measuring it. In some ways, time is seen to move backwards, or, from a quantum perspective, time and space are interlinked in ways that confound our senses AND our best scientific instruments. So if we cannot accurately perceive what time is... what makes us think we can use tarot to measure the things that happen within it?
Second, consider that our perception of time is cultural in origin:
Western Perception of time:
2. Strict starting and ending points.
3. As one moves across this timeline, events and milestones are passed.
4. Once an event is passed, it is complete and cannot be revisited.
5. In this perception of time, life is organized by creating a schedule.
6. Value and importance is communicated by keeping and honoring the schedule.
7. E.g. If I make plans to meet someone for lunch at 12 PM and do not show up until 12:30, then I owe that person an apology because my tardiness is offensive. I did not honor our schedule and did not value their time (source).
But even if we decide that the linear aspect of time is standard, there are variations within that.
Third, our own 'standard' western model of time varies:
Perception of time is a cultural construct and among those cultures who do believe in a western perception of time there are variations.
(Excellent article I recommend giving it a read!)
As an American living in other countries, I noticed that time felt different, it always felt like there was more time, I thought perhaps I was going crazy but once I returned to America I would talk to foreign nationals who also noticed the phenomenon of perception of time shifting along with culture.
We would shake our heads and say, “Why do I feel so busy when I had all the time I needed before?” Everyone gets the same 24 hours, don’t they? From my own perceptions and in conversations with others I learned that: Group consciousness on time impacts the whole. So if time was so very static, why would it feel so different? What's going on with time?
With Practice, a Different Model Emerges
Over conducting thousands of readings a different understanding of how tarot (and time) operate has emerged for me, and that operation feels closer to an interdynamic model. To illustrate, I have included the standard definition of “Navajo time”. Though by no means is this time-structure the aegis of the Navajo culture alone.
Navajo Perception of Time:
2. If an event is passed or missed, then there is not as much reason for concern. The understanding is that the event will usually come back around again.
3. In this perception of time, life is organized by completing tasks or events.
4. Value and importance is communicated not by starting/arriving on time, but by staying until the interaction is over or the task is complete.
5. E.g. If I make plans to meet someone here on our reservation at noon and do not show up until 1 pm, there is usually no need for me to apologize. But, once we are talking, if I am constantly looking at my watch or suddenly announce that I need to leave, I have committed an offense. I did not allow the interaction to come to its natural completion. (source)
Time from an Inter-relational Perspective
Tarot seems to follow rules that are causal in nature.. A reading will be less about "when" something will happen but rather in the "how" a thing emerges.
A closer question, a far more helpful question to ask tarot is, 'how?' rather than 'when'.
If we take into account a non-linear agreement for time, a different assumption about how tarot actually works begins to emerge:
A Reframed, inter-relational, causal dynamic creates a new probability-telling definition for what a tarot reading includes:
Like trying to predict the weather, a weather scientist must enact highly technical algorithms to measure a massive amount of data which produces a “most likely outcome” but that probable outcome is predicated on current conditions; how the ‘wind is blowing’.
So in this new understanding of time and how tarot works, we paint a picture not of “when” but of “how”.
Not, “When will I meet Mr. Right?” but rather, “What do I need to do, pay attention to, or avoid to create the most likely narrative in finding Mr. Right?”.
I find this view of tarot to be very complete, it creates a narrative that is interactive and helpful in the most practical sense. There is far more beauty and flexibility in a system that hands over creative control to us rather than a train speeding towards some pre-ordained destiny. to one Shifting our thoughts on time and personal power clearly illustrates our links to the great Divine (including one another) which is a powerful shift. A shift that places the power squarely within our own so very capable hands.
"As above, so below" goes the adage and it is no less true for each and every one of us. It is less about being a particle moving along a track as it is that we are one thin-slice of a living, breathing Grand Conciousness, interconntected and always influencing and being influenced by others. I like to think in terms of interdimensionality (depth) rather than distance. To me, the tarot seems to meet this model, too.
As a Tarot reader, I often hear, "This makes no absolute sense..at all!" What EXACTLY is the reading saying here?" and as much as I wish the reading was exactly as obvious as we would hope, sometimes an oracular moment has other plans. It can be disconcerting when we get information that does not make sense, and sometimes it is wildly out of the realm of what sounds plausible, or even normal.
Examples of reading messages that are not immediately clear:
"How could a woman cause trouble at work? I only work with men and we get along really well!"
"What do you mean a lay-off is imminent, everything is fine!
"My sister is my best friend, she would NEVER share a secret."
"My husband will never find out, it’s impossible"
What's going on here?
Why are the messages so far from base or expectation?
Reading interpretations are not always logical or linear, for example, hearing, “You will meet a love interest at work.” could mean a coworker's friend, a messenger, a customer, someone who stopped in on accident, or even a new person at a company function. But often, we pay attention to only the literal meaning and lock it down as the "right information". If we are only looking at the coworkers, we might miss the person in question, then in turn question the message.
We see an oracle to gain clarity about situations, but an Oracle is under no obligation to give it to us in the exact way that we demand. An oracle takes into account much more data into it's prediction than the actual question that we seek.
One of the biggest data points that go into any forecast is free will. Hearing an oracular message will often influence what happens. For example, a reader tells you someone who owes you money will default. You hire a lawyer who then contacts them and payment comes in… so what happened here? Was the reader wrong, or were you, now armed with the knowledge of the forecast, made changes that effected the outcome? Free will is a HUGE piece in the message, I often hear a reading less about the message and more about a message to an individual's free will. I have seen some clients lazy or self-indulgent in making needed changes and the reading is over the top, I mean just dramatic, "Death, the Tower, Ten of Swords... OMG you are about to get FIRED!" In these cases the Oracle is speaking more in terms of getting the free will to act, rather than the actual forecast. The oracle, knowing he is lazy, made the information so dramatic he was forced to act, thereby saving him in the long run.
(The reading above was indeed true but the client did not want to believe it. After he was fired, he handled it gracefully and actually was interviewing for jobs over that time, talk about a soft landing!)
Another reason for lack of clarity is that the message is being intentionally unclear. Sometimes a client will want information that for whatever reason is not ready to be revealed, or the information is coming through at odds with what the client was hoping or expecting,”huh? what? Tarot reader, can you make any sense of this? Not always, because we to a fault share what we see or can interpret or feel, and sometimes that is all we are getting, too. Sometimes Spirit does not give the reader a sneak peek, either. Again, it is one of those, "Spirit Knows Best" scenarios, the main message being that things are working themselves into alignment but you are not privvy to that information, yet. This is especially true if the reading concerns others, as they also have free will, things have not shifted into place on their end to give a clear answer.
There is too much bias and subjectivity to hear the message. We want to hear what we want to hear SO BADLY that anything other than that we cannot intellectually comprehend it. Or, we demand a clarity that the oracle is unable to provide, "What do you mean, spring? Is that April, May, June..? What day, exactly?" (again, refer to free will). An oracle (as far as it works for me, anyway) makes forecasts much like a weatherman does. Weathermen use sophisticated computer models to predict the weather and even he gets it wrong. All I have is a deck of cards!
Like a weatherman calculating mass data from many different sources, all converging and interacting and affecting one another, so to is an oracle forecast taking into account all of these data points; a scatter of time is easier to pinpoint.
Another reason we might not be able to understand the message is that the information opposes what we believe we deserve, "What do you mean I will be single over the summer, but I have been single for so long already." An oracle tells us usually what is in our best interest, this is sometimes at odds with what we want to hear.
So my advice is if you hear something that is way off from a reader who has otherwise been on point, be open-minded about it, sometimes the point of the information is to change something, or it is currently unclear, or it will come through in a strange way.
This is oracle work, not accounting-- tarot and the intuitive mind do not always operate on a mechanical system (insert coin, out plops fortune). Oracular messages are often meant to be pondered upon; it is in the reflection of the message that we gain wisdom. These messages are very important wisdom-sharing from Spirit written especially for us. If we approach any oracular session in a mechanistic expectation (in coin, out forecast) we might completely miss the greater, larger message moving into our lives.
Next time you have a reading, pay attention especially to the places that do not make immediate sense, that is your work. A grand, spiritual working.
This blog post and analysis has been kicking around in my mind for the last two years. As a self-described "animal person" I usually notice animals in decks before I notice people and it was not too long before the story of Fortitude/Strength began to unravel her mysteries to me through the ages. The Strength card is a tell tail sign that directly points to humanities' relationships with animals.
It is also interesting that my thoughts about the Strength card dovetailed with the tragedy of Cecil the lion. The public response has been swift: from banning transport of trophies from Africa to reconsidering the whole sport of trophy hunting, changes are afoot as I write this article in ways that are surprising but not altogether unexpected.
The backlash against the protesters, that it was" just one lion" is incorrect. It was not just about Cecil the animal insomuch as it was really about Cecil as Archetype. Humanity is making an incredible cultural shift in its relationship to the wild world, and we can watch this amazing evolution of human-animal relations by looking at our very own tarot cards.
The Lion as Archetype has defined human consciousness since the dawn of mankind. Lions adorn our neolithic cave walls while our earliest civilizations to countries today make the Lion as Archetype the symbol of power, strength, nobility, and bravery, he is the main symbol for a nature we cannot own. Indeed, the lion himself lives within our deepest dreamscapes and imagery.
It was not just about a “sexy animal” and that worms and toads are less important. Cecil represents a much deeper, almost instinctual response inside of ourselves the lion as trope has a deep Archetypal importance in our collective unconscious. The lion (like the snake and the falcon) are old, and very important signposts for humanity. Through our relationships with these “signposts” we can also gauge the health of our own species.
The Fortitude/Strength card through the ages is an amazing artistic timeline that reflects our relationship to Lion as well as the human relationship to the wild. If we look at tarot cards created, especially within the last 20 years or so, we see different relationships begin to emerge. Perhaps we are coming full circle from the relationship we used to have with Lion; each card a clue to our own attitudes and beliefs about our place in the world, and our work in it.
Artists tend to subconsciously absorb culture, then reflect what is, or what will later emerge, into public consciousness. Artists are often the visionaries; illustrating a process already in the subterranean heartbeat of a culture. From this perspective and in choosing decks that were bought and used by a high percentage of people, we might be able to ascertain the trajectory of civilization across time.
Cards were chosen for historical significance, then from the 1970’s on, chosen for mostly public appeal and sales. Because I am making a claim on our collective unconscious, I chose cards that have enjoyed a high readership. I shied away from boutique and theme cards because they tend to reflect a niche element rather than the standard human-lion aspect.
I omitted Thoth because Lust took the card into a different trajectory that I felt was not as good an indicator for public attitudes of animal awareness.
I did not take into account any artist commentary or intent from their work. Not that that is unimportant, but I wanted to interact with the card purely as viewer soaking in the art in a way that much of the public does when viewing cards. I wanted the art alone to convey a message to me.
Tarot: Middle Ages to Englightenment
One of the earliest decks, the Visconti, we see a man beating a lion into submission. The lion is cowering in fear and pain. The man's well-muscled legs is the obvious viewpoint of Strength in this picture. It is interesting to me that the lion is not well-depicted, the proportions are off and the face is more dog-like than lion. There is still a great anger and need to dominate in this photo, as if humanity was still not quite sure of his dominance of the world, an insecurity perhaps.
The Mantegna Tarocchi, created somewhere around 1465, depicts a woman of great strength, perhaps even a God or as a giant as she is able to break columns of stone. She wears a headdress of a lion head. The lion is behind her, watching on with a sad look, perhaps the face of defeat; humanity has not only beaten the lion but as surpassed the lion.
The Marseilles, the next stop in the minds of many tarot historians, depicts a woman who has not only dominated the lion, but begins to domesticate him. Opening up the lion's mouth this image depicts complete control and a desire to submit the lion into domestication. The face of the woman looks a bit strange, the domination is apparent but perhaps not as assured as she would like.
The Etilla Tarot carries forward the imagery of woman and lion, the woman (of course being the weaker of human genders) has now made the lion a pet. The lion is long past the need to be beat into submission by a strong man.
Sitting at her feet the lion is symbolic in his transference of power to her and acts as a servant. The Lion, the once ferocious and feared (and even worshiped) animal has become nothing more than an object, an owned thing.
The Rider Waite Smith also continues the woman and lion trope to illustrate strength but here the dominance is perhaps less obvious. The domination already been won the picture is a bit ambiguous: is the lion licking her?
The interaction between them appears to be kinder but the human is still dominant. The woman's face is calm and controlled, the face of a lion tamer confident in her ability to control. To me, if feels that the affection flows from lion to human, and control is flowing from human to lion.
Popular decks of the 70s
Morgan Greer Tarot - Created by Lloyd Morgan, Bill Greer - US Games 1979
1JJ Tarot - Created by Stuart Kaplan - US Games 1970 (reprints of older woodblocks)
Bota Tarot- Created by Robert Wang, Israel Regardie- AGM Müller 1977 US Games 1978
All three decks include dominance and control but from different perspectives. 1JJ tarot is interesting because this image was based on an older woodcutting. Decks that utilize both older imagery as well as historical narratives tend to throw the curve in terms of lion-human interaction vs. other decks created at that time.
Morgan Greer takes on the RWS imagery including the possible lion licking the woman but the body language is still one of control; the woman appears to be bending downward to control the head of a lion whose body is still in motion. Like RWS though, the Morgan Greer depicts a woman who is calm and competent in her control, the lion seems to be uncomfortable, some might say playful but his claws are unsheathed indicating unease.
Similar to the Morgan Greer, BOTA also depicts a calm woman in control of the situation but the lion is obviously well in hand, his dominance assured he looks ahead unquestioning the role he has to play in the tableau. While wearing a wreath, BOTA's card makes the lion feel more like a prize being shown off, not only has humanity dominated, controlled, and domesticated the wild he shows off his prize in ultimate hubris, what is left for the lion?
Popular decks of the 80s
Hanson Roberts Tarot - Created by Mary Hanson-Roberts - US Games 1985
Voyager Tarot - Created by Ken Knutson, James Wanless - Merrill-West Publishing 1986
Sacred Rose Tarot-Created by Johanna Gargiulo-Sherman - US Games 1980
Just as it begins the look like there might not be any hope left for the lion, the decks of the 80s begin to show a radical shift. The Hanson Roberts shows a scene where the lion is beloved, gentled, and both the lady and the lion are relaxed with eyes closed with obvious affection between them. There is no struggle. Not in this card or any other illustrated above.
Both Voyager and Sacred Rose show for the first time, an actual integration between human and lion. The line between species is blurred. Voyager is particularly interesting with its half-lion, half-human face, and in it we begin to see the stirrings of interconnectedness and union. In the Sacred Rose we see both lion and woman looking ahead together, the mane and the hair in concert, they are on a mission as a team, and finally, peers.
Popular decks of the 90s
Robin Wood Tarot - Created by Robin Wood- Llewellyn 1991
The Enchanted Tarot - Created by Amy Zerner - St Martins Press
Miss Cleo's Tarot Power - Created by Seth Stephens, J. F. Lambert - Radar Communications
The 90's continues to expand and deliver the lion and human relationship re-imagined. I particularly like the Robin Wood depiction because the lion's face does not look tame, he has not be made into a pet and while he is in mid-step the woman does not control his movements, she actually has an amused face, as if she knows him but does not control him and there is obvious affection between both. The lion is calm and alert, this is no pet.
The Enchanted tarot places the lion as king, there is a sense that he is recrowned, finally to the kingdom he lost before. The lion is calm, there is no struggle.What is interesting is that the woman is more angelic- it appears almost healing in aspect. This cards seems to point to lion as a spiritual seeker. An animal with a soul. The idea that all animals have souls. (A break from traditional Christian thought that proposes that animals in fact, do not.)
Finally, we have the Miss Cleo's Tarot Power card, I choose this one particularly for its unusual dynamic. Here we have the lion in full on attack mode, the second before the pounce, protecting the woman behind her. There is no sense that this lion is owned, dominated or controlled in any way. Miss Cleo took a lot of heat and was the focus of public derision so I am not surprised to see that this card is almost an unconscious reflex of defense, but again the theme runs true; the lion is not controlled or dominated in any way.
Popular Decks of the Aughts
Animals Divine Tarot, Created by Lisa Hunt - Llewellyn 2005
Legacy of the Divine Tarot, Created by Ciro Marchetti-Self Published 2008 Llewellyn 2009
World Spirit Tarot Created by Jessica Godino, Lauren O'Leary - Llewellyn 2001 Llewellyn 2006
Animals Divine and Legacy of the Divine both follow a similar path as that of the Enchanted, Lion as mystical, spiritual and worthy of reverence in his own right and way. The woman taking on the aspect of Deity with Animals Divine we start to truly see the spiritual aspect of the lion. I am particularly interested in the lion as divine aspect without the integration aspect we see in earlier. It is also in he Aughts that w begin to see an earnest reemergence of Shaman as spiritual work. Everyone seems to be going on Shamanic Journeying these days, and do they meet lions? I bet they do.
We went from domination, to submission, to control, to domesticating, to honoring, to creating a peer relationship, to integration and here we see lions as divine with humans as witness. The World Spirit tarot depicts obvious affection and for the first time in this set of cards, more of a family feeling between the two with other signs pointing towards integration.
Popular Decks of today (2015)
Gaian Tarot continues the theme of deep affection, almost familial in nature. The lion is female and very well-depicted, you can sense the artist here really connected with accurate lion imagery in this card, in fact it would appear that the lion is done in greater detail with particular attention to coat pattern details. I also get the sense of protection for the lion from the woman and the tone of the card feels very feminine in aspect, a Strength derived from consensus building rather than brute force. The woman's hand is outstretched not as a petting but rather in a very familiar and affectionate gesture, interconnected and comfortable.
Shadowscapes takes a nod from earlier RWS Strength styles but the woman is holding the jaw of the lion and her other hand rests on him. There is a feeling that the lion is the main event, while the woman is a supporting role in his magic. No control or domination but rather it feels as if she might be his servant in some aspect. He holds the globe, a true King of the jungle, indeed. The lion does not need to be "pet"ified to make the human comfortable, he is himself and in his power she assists.
Finally, the woman is done away with altogether. The card is the lions alone but perhaps the card also indicates an integration with the lemniscate above him. The first and only in this run that actually places that above the lion's head. The lion has his own spiritual life and development outside and irrelevant to the woman. But also, I think it has an undertone of Strength as letting be, true strength not being dominance and control but rather honoring and supporting the wisdom Lion has to give to us. Lion has his own ways and wisdom that does not concern or include humans. But by watching lion, we gain our own spiritual grace.
The outrage over Cecil has been in the works within my own generation. Usually, it is the artists who feel it first and broadcasts that initial insight to the public at large.
By crafting the Strength card we are presented with a dynamic view of human to animal relations, in particularly human to Archetype Lion relations. Cecil's story represents a deep question humanity is facing; what is the world like that will no longer be wild? What is left for humans when all has been dominated? How do we protect what is left, honor what is left, leave what is left to live their own lives and have their own spirituality?
What is the true quality of Strength?
My husband and I like to forage for wild mushrooms and collect edible wildfood. It is a gentle way to sink into a place and learn local ecology.
It also provides us with some really delicious mushrooms and herbs as well as knowledge of local poisonous plants; for example, our front yard is abundant in snakeweed, which was what killed Abraham Lincoln’s Mother.
Cows can digest the plant but the poison will leak into her milk and kill people! Interesting, no?
So, what the heck does any of this have to do with Tarot? Well, actually, a lot, and from the practice of finding mushrooms I have become a better reader.
Being good at spotting things in nature requires the art of soft focus, soft focus is absolutely the opposite of what most of us do in our daily lives. Our lives are grounded in hard focus; on the road, on our phones, at our emails, etc. The beam of concentration is sharp, but pinpoint small. Soft focus is blurry with a wide field of view and increasingly, we as a society are engaging in soft focus less and less often.
So just as I begin a walk in the woods with soft eyes and alert and calm mind, so to do I begin a reading. The Tarot spread is like a patch of woods, and perhaps there will be mushrooms, edible nettle or even a fawn off the trail. The Tarot spread just might have an answer I am looking for, or it contain might something else. We are just taking a walk in the forest, open to what we experience. As a mushroom hunter, I have in mind a number of mushrooms I would like to see in the woods but I make no personal expectations about what will happen. That is the first very important tip, have no expectations. As a reader I begin a spread with no expectations about what I will see, including answers.
Once I have checked my own expectations, I spread the cards and I invoke soft focus. Those of you who meditate probably know what I mean by soft focus. We “soften” our eyes by allowing our vision to be less focused, we are not “looking” or “paying” attention to anything in particular. We are allowing the whole vision of the scene to be as it is.
So more concretely, what does it mean to engage in soft focus during a reading?
Here are some guidelines to help you :
And when you do that… YES!… there’s your shining mushroom all the sudden out of nowhere, as if it appeared. The message, the connection, the intuitive information hits you, usually out of nowhere. It is as if the information bubbled up between the cards. I am not sure how I can explain it more than that, but that is how it works for me… the information comes between the cards, and it is shining and by itself, and it is accurate, but I can never strain for it, or ask for it. I just sit without anxiousness and it will appear to my conciousness if it will.
The act of reading Tarot is truly an act of surrender.
This kind of soft focus reading can be extraordinarily challenging. Our rational/anxious/monkey mind wants to immediately set to work to figuring it all out. And you will engage the ordinal part of you later, but when you first lay out the cards have no expectations, do not “set to work” just walk in the forest of the tarot spread and allow the subconscious/intuitive part of you do what it does.
If I am actively trying to focus my attention on every tree and shrub I would never find my nummy num nums, there is too much information everywhere. So I stay quiet, I move slow and I look about but in that place of soft focus I am allowing the information to bleed past the line of sight and into something deeper. Like vision, you can either have a narrow and sharp focus OR a hazy wide field of vision, why not use both tools in your readings?
Give it a try, lay out your cards and refrain from the emphasis to make meaning. See if anything pops up, and if it does not, then go about your normal tarot reading, but do give it a chance first.
When the Hermit appears in the reading, a client will often despair. For many, the Hermit does mean being alone or that a relationship might not work out, or the friends won't come anytime soon. Like all things Tarot, symbols are more than they appear at first blush.
Personally, when I think about the archetype of the Hermit, the Kung Fu Monk on the Mountain comes to mind.
Perhaps this imagery came to me so strongly because a few years ago I lived in China and took a trip to Shaolin Monastery, if any of you are Kung Fu fans, you know that this is THE place to learn Kung Fu. It is up a mountain in a quiet part of China and packed with Chinese and foreign students learning Kung Fu and Buddhism.
To awake in the morning and see thousands of people in rows going through the same movements is an amazing thing to behold. The grandeur of this noble art and way of life came from one Hermit, a monk named Batuo, who wandered in from India to teach Buddhism and later established Shaolin Monastery. One Hermit who decided to withdraw from the world, forever changed the world, this is what the wisdom of the Hermit can often evoke.
In all religions and important cultural stories, the Hermit is front and center to great spiritual change. Jesus, an example was as we all know, wandered as a Hermit eschewing a carpenter's life. The Prophet Muhammad, the Buddha all had similar origin stories- the world’s religious leaders often began their time wandering alone to return to the public with radical messages. Everyday, people decide to take time off from society and come back forever changed by it. An excellent blog post about the historical/philosophical/religious of Hermit life can be found here by Tarot reader and Academic Donna Hazel. Interestingly we both posted on the same day about nearly the same topic-funny how that works.
The Hermit truly as an archetype often have these commonalities:
Once the Hermit has committed to a withdrawal process, he then spends time without distraction. He works hard, he is uncompromising in his goal, and he may not know the end result, but he knows that silence is what is needed right now.
And when the Hermit has attained a level self-development, he then lights his lamp. He beckons those who are deserving of his time and energy to climb the mountain and he guides them to his mountain abode in order to share what he has learned.
So when we get a Hermit card in a reading, it doesn't necessarily mean,
"Omg, go adopt 6 cats cause it's the end for you! No one will ever love you again!!!"
The appearance of the Hermit in your life often represents:
A time of voluntary withdrawal (a pledge of not dating, or not seeking old dysfunctional friendships) and a welcoming of the silence that is the Source.
A time of deep introspection and getting your head clear from distraction (not seeking hookups, not seeking bad connections and spending that time working on your STUFF).
During your time of introspection and quiet, be mindful of falling back into old behavior because you are: bored, lonely, sad, tired. The Hermit recognizes that these emotions are part of him but he continues forth, he deepens the silence in spite of distraction. Remember, the Hermit is committed.
And when the Hermit is ready, he lights his lamp-not to just anyone-but to people who earn his time and attention (reacquainting ourselves with OURSELVES we no longer bother with mediocre relationships, others must EARN our time and attention, they must desire to raise the vibration).
The Hermit surrounds himself with people who feel deeply, who create, who are honestly living their lives outside of what the village has taught, because the Hermit knows there is always more depth to be had.
Need a real life example?
Read up on this amazing person, his documentaries are often on PBS.
He lived alone in the Alaskan wildreness for over 20 years. His documentaries, self filmed have inspired generations of people.
Deeply consider the following:
Time consciously removed from the higgy-biggy will mean that over time the quality of your relationships of all kinds will be of a higher vibration.
So how does one do that, with kids, jobs, partners, parents, bills, pets to feed, and on and on and on?
To partake of the Hermit energy can happen in a day, in an hour, in a weekend; one does not need to leave their lives behind to benefit from Hermit wisdom. Actually, there are many websites devoted to offering the public retreat options of all types and kinds, from religious to secular these places with all kinds of budget options catering to your financial and time needs.
Resources for Want to Be Hermits:
I highly recommend www.retreatfinder.com (there are international listings though it is primarily US based).
And even if you cannot pay for an away retreat, I cannot recommend this book enough to cultivate your own retreat space: Woman's Retreat Book: A Guide to Restoring, Rediscovering and Reawakening Your True Self --In a Moment, An Hour, Or a Weekend by Jennifer Louden
Dig into the Hermit, do not see his presence in your life as a time to despair, he is calling you with his lamp, join him in opening to the Mystery and shift your life more closely to positivity, authenticy and a more deeper spiritual life.
Stop filling up on snacks, the meal is about to arrive.
As many of you know, I Co-Organize a vibrant and interesting meetup group called
Not Your Mother's Tarot and we meet about once a month to discuss all things Tarot and all the intersections that Tarot has with other things including channeling and mediumship.
Recently, one of our own long time members and wonderful friend, Angela Dawn, wrote a book about her experience of channeling her Mother and her sister after they both crossed over in close succession.
Angela chronicals a series of conversations she channels between her and her Mother and sister who disclose to her very descriptive information about the after life and also our meaning here on Earth. The book is meaningful, engaging, heartfelt and a true labor of love. I even have the joy of having Angela at most Meetup groups sitting on the yoga floor and reading tarot with me!
Love Never Dies: From Heaven My Sister Speaks was a great comfort to me when my own family member was about to cross over. Angela shares the gift of her incredible bond as well as her channeling ability with the rest of us, who question, "What's next?" There are many stories out there that talk about life after, but what really moved me was this incredibly gentle, loving and close bond that only a Mother and sisters can share, that Angela then shares with us.
Angela expands more about channeling and her incredible journey below:
What plans do you have for helping others pursue a connection with lost loved ones?
Very often I meet people who have lost a loved one and I share my story and experience with them. Most of them are very interested in learning more and whether they too can communicate with their loved ones. I would like to teach as many people as possible about the existence of the spirit world, that life does continue after the physical death, and how they too can communicate with their loved ones. I plan to do this through small development circles where people meet on a regular basis, and by holding workshops at churches, community halls, libraries or anywhere there is a place for people to gather.
Do you still maintain contact with your mother and sister? If so, how is this contact continued? If not, what kind of contact do you still maintain with that world?
When I am in need of help, I find that they do come. Let me give you an example, when I was trying to finalize the second part of the title of my book “from heaven my sister speaks” I had written over two pages of proposed titles. When I wrote the words “from heaven my sister speaks” I became overwhelmed with emotion and I began to cry. The tears streamed down my face and I sobbed. I knew that it was my sister communicating with me. Thoughts of her came into my mind and I felt a sense of knowing that these were the right words to use.
Can you explain more of how spiritual energies work in our world?
As many people are aware our bodies are composed of seven energy centers or chakras. The higher we raise our energy level through our energy centers or chakras the more elevated our consciousness will be. It is through our consciousness that we blend our energy with spirit energy. We can raise our energy level through meditation which I had done when writing my book. I had raised my energy level to a high level where I could very easily blend my energy with spirit energy.
Do you feel that spiritual energies are existent in those getting ready to crossover? How does energy change in situations such as prolonged illness?
I feel that our loved ones are there to help us at the time we are ready to crossover to the other side. I asked my sister in the days before she passed whether she had seen mother and she nodded her head. Then, she looked toward the corner of the room, as if to say that is where mother appeared. I know that our loved ones bring their love and it is this love that gives us courage and comfort prior to our passing.
Also, they come and bring their loving energy during times of prolonged illness. Once, my mother had a prolonged illness where she was in pain for many months with an undiagnosed abscess growing on her brain. The doctors stated that it was only a matter of time before she passed away. It was during this time that her grandmother, who had died many years before, appeared to my mother at her bedside and told her that everything was going to be alright. The loving energy that her grandmother brought eased her pain. My mother was able to lift her head up off the pillow and sit upright in bed. This was something that she had not been able to do in several weeks and something she did not do again until after the abscess was surgically removed.
So yes, I do believe our loved ones come and use their loving energy to help us in our time of need.
You also talk about reincarnation in your book, can you tell me a little more about that?
I did not have an opinion on reincarnation until my sister explained it to me in the book and showed me our past life together. Since that time, I have read several books on reincarnation. Now, I do believe that we are on this earth for a purpose whether it is to learn a lesson for our own soul’s development or to help another soul on their journey learn a lesson. If we look at nature and look at the trees with their branches and leaves we can see how the old leaves fall in the autumn to make way for the new leaves and new growth in the spring. In this analogy, our souls are like the trees and the new leaves and new branches represent our lives on earth. In the same lifecycle of the trees, I believe that our souls can and do repeat this process.
Angela is also hosting a Not Your Mother's Tarot Meetup group Feruary Friday the 13th at 7pm called, Connect With Your Loved Ones :Connect with your departed loved ones through a guided meditation along with your individual tarot card spread! Angela Dawn, author of “Love Never Dies: From Heaven my Sister Speaks” will be talking about her book and sharing her techniques so you too can receive a message!
You can also catch her at the Holistic & Psychic Fair is Saturday March 7, 11am to 5pm at the James Lorah House, Doylestown
Reading Tarot is so much more than just “telling someone’s future”. Like most things, what is known and the truth of a thing are often vastly different. Tarot has been hugely underrated by John Q Public because it has been cloaked under the mantle of fear, and general misunderstanding.
So besides doing oogy boogy so scary readings, or telling your best pal when she will walk down that aisle, the art of Tarot is an incredible resource for personal growth and self-discovery. The act of learning to read tarot will change you as a person, and for the better. Like any tool, Tarot can be used for a variety of uses, there is such a world to Tarot, it can do so much more than most give them credit for!
But, don’t just take it from me, I opened the question up to several online Tarot groups,
“How has Tarot benefited you as a person?” I was overwhelmed with positive responses from new to Tarot to Tarot Masters and here is what they had to say:
Tarot Helps Us Be More Compassionate to Others
Tarot helps Us See How We are Agents of Change
Tarot Supports Our Healing and Transformation
Tarot Changes the Way We Interact With Ourselves and the World
The benefits one gets from learning Tarot far outweigh the work involved in learning them. These stories from other readers of all levels reveal incredible insights as to why working with Tarot is a worthwhile persuit of depth, healing, connection and insight in addition to the more popular understanding of what the tool of tarot does for us.
Tarot is so much more.... and its positive changes are deep and wide-spread...
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