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!
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