Sunday, September 17, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: Justice

"I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."
Theodore Parker

The tarot has many queenly figures in it. Each suit has its reigning feminine monarch (for four in all) plus there are several major arcana cards traditionally depicting women upon thrones, including the Lady visiting us yet again—Justice.

Discrimination. Wisdom. Clarity. Fairness. Consequence. These are the values associated with this card, numbered 11 to represent balance (and echoed in the twin pillars that are on either side of the throne). Like the personification of Justice that appears in our courts, Lady Justice of the tarot carries both a sword, representing severity, and scales, representing mercy. She is not blindfolded, however. She is objective, yes, but her sense of fair play comes from being able to see a situation deeply and clearly. How else is she to prevent a conniving thumb from sneaking onto those golden balances? How else will she ensure that the verdict she renders is truly right and not simply legal?

And that is what she asks of us this week, not the detached disinterest of the scale, nor the edged vindication of the sword—Justice requires that we keep our eyes wide open.

This is how the arc of the universe bends, after all. Not through passive inaction. Not by simply trusting that everything will work itself out. No, the arc is bent by the work of hands. But before we act, we must choose the right and correct action. This is the true work of Justice.

This week, consider how you can help bend the arc of the Universe. As a creative person, you have a treasure chest of gifts and talents. Creative work is soul satisfying, often very enjoyable, rewarding in its own right. It can also be used to create a tangible result. What worthwhile result can you envision? What small action can you take to move yourself—and therefore the entire Universe—toward that result?

Previously, I said of Justice, "You already have the long-enough lever—she's simply showing you where you might stand." That sounds exactly right for this week too.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Nine of Wands

As I write this, the first storm bands from Hurricane Irma are starting to roll across the Low Country. The radar map shows them as sweeping waves of green and yellow and blue, spiraling counterclockwise as the wind and rain move closer to us.

Widdershins. Leftwise. The direction of banishing.

I wish I could banish all the damage that Irma will deal to the Southeast as she rips up Florida's backbone and erupts into South Georgia. I do not wield that kind of power. A hurricane, like all of those things we call natural disasters, is an elemental force. It has no fury. No mercy either. It is what it is, and all we can do is prepare for the onslaughtgather batteries and canned food, recharge the phone, tie up loose objects.

As the storm's projected track has shifted, so has its targets. My home is no longer a bull's eyes, and so I can breathe a sigh of relief. But now people I love are about to take a direct hit, and the fear returns. I light candles in the reiki bowl and write the names of my dear ones on slips of white paper. Into the silver and gold bowl they go, and my prayers for their safety go into the universe. This too is preparation. This too is necessary.

This week's card is The Nine of Swords. Here is what I said about it the last time it turned up in a reading:
Strength in reserve. That's the message of the Nine of Wands, personified by our grizzled, war-weary hero at the gates.

He's seen trouble, sure enough. And more troubles are on the way, you can bet. Trouble's always rolling in somewhere, after all, and his wary, defiant stance suggests that he'll be there to meet it when it does. Trouble is not going to sneak up on him in the night, no sir, no ma'am.

And he's right, of course. Trouble is here, trouble there, trouble trouble everywhere. What else is a person to do but wrap the bandages tighter, grab a stick, and take up position?
Indeed. What else can we do but prepare? Some battles meet us at our own front doors. A hurricane certainly does.

As we batten down our hatches and send thoughts of protection to our loved ones, we channel the energy of this card. We are still standing. We are still strong. We can endure.

But there is one caveat to this cardour bloody but unbowed warrior stands alone. I wonder if he really is, though.  I am grateful to be facing this storm in the company of people who care for me. We can look out for each other. And we will.

This week, no matter what challenge you are facing, know that you are strong enough to handle it. And also know that even though it may feel at times like a solitary battle, it isn't. As Mr. Rogers reminded us, look for the helpers. Look hard. And remember, sometimes you're the helper.

Blessed be, y'all. Keep watch. Hold tight. Stay strong. I'll see you on the other side of the storm.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Ace of Swords

There's a hurricane threatening my neck of the woods, a vast Category Five onslaught of ill winds and massive destruction. Predicting its landfall is difficult right nowthere are too many high and low pressure systems at playbut that doesn't make this kind of storm random. Oh no, a hurricane is a deterministic beast. Like all forces of nature, it is subject to rules and laws and factors. And that is why it is a particularly apt metaphor for the Ace of Swords.

You can read a summary of the card here. When it flashes into view, the Ace of Swords asks us to consider the mental aspects of our situation, how our mind can either help us solve a problem or play tricks on us. A clever creature, our brain. So much of its mechanisms remain separate from our understanding, just like the forces that shape the path of a storm.

And just like storm, our mental powers can be used for good or evil, to help or to hurt. They can challenge the status quo as deftly as they topple the best laid plans.

Right now, there is a panic sweeping the Eastern seaboard from Miami to Charleston, South Carolina. It is fueled partly by memory and partly by anticipation. Emergency preparation has at its heart logic and common sense, but it's easily corrupted by anxiety and fear. Like the Ace of Swords, our mental sharpness cuts both ways.

This week, I am prepping for a hurricane. And I am doing my best to be flexible in the face of such winds. Bendy like the willow, that's my motto. May it be yours as well.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The World

"We'll take the whole shebang/ all or nothing, anything/ Ecstasy's the birthright of our gang/ we'll take the whole she-bang/ free your heart from guilt and shame/come and claim what's yours, the whole shebang."
from "The Whole Shebang" by Grant Lee Buffalo

Last week, Iand millions of my fellow Americanswatched the moon move across the face of the sun in a solar eclipse. It was my first experience with totality, with sudden twilight in the middle of the day. As the sky deepened to indigo and the cicadas started keening and the temperature dropped and sunset glowed in every direction, I could understand how ancient humans thought the world was ending.

I was lucky enough to know better. Science told me what was happening, and I trust science. This didn't lessen the awe I felt as a profound reverence overtook me. Yes, the world would go on. It would spin on its slightly canted axis around the flaming ball of hot gas that makes life possible, and the moon would spin around it in a clockwork ballet. Pas de deux and elliptical orbits, poetry and math dancing together. And there I was, a tiny speck of me, right at the heart of it. Just like you.

And that is the secret of The World, the paradoxical idea that the universe has as many centers as it has souls. But then this is a card of paradox. The world dancer exists in stillness and movement simultaneously, her feet firmly grounded on thin air. She inhabits the circle without end under and above twin infinity loops, and she is surrounded by four figures, one in each corner—a human, an eagle, a lion, and a bullrepresenting the four fixed signs of the zodiac, the four elements, and the four suits in the tarot (this is the squared circle, which is itself a symbol of paradox and mystery). She is alone, yet she is not alone (she is also not necessarily a she; in many interpretations, the figure is hermaphroditic, which further adds to the mystery of this card).

The World may look familiar to you, even though this is the first time it has come up here. If so, gold star for youthis card has many similarities to the Wheel of Fortune, which came up two weeks ago. Both cards feature a central image surrounded by the same four figures in the corners. There's one big difference, however—we are separate from the Wheel, at the mercy of its risings and fallings, unless we can find the still place at the center. That still place is The World. Here we are an inextricable part of everything. We are complete. We are the World. You are. I am. That guy over there? He is too.

So what does this mean for you this week? Traditionally the World foretells a time of culmination, a sense of integration, finality, and achievement. That's certainly true for meI am preparing to send in final edits on my sixth book and that's definitely feeling worthy of a hallelujah chorus or two. Whatever it is that's coming to a satisfactory close for you this week, take some time to enjoy and celebrate it. Seriously. Take time. Snatch it out of the maw of routine. Hallow that accomplishment with your attention.

And remember, you are part of something very big and wonderful. In fact, you are something very big and wonderful. Claim every scrap of it. The whole shebang. That's the lesson of the world, and it's as big as...well, everything.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: Strength and the Sun

As I write this, we here at Whittle Central are preparing for the Great American Eclipse tomorrow. We live about two hours outside of the zone of totality, so we're making a little road trip in order to experience the full effect.

My husband the engineer is packing eclipse glasses, road maps, and a cooler full of sandwiches. I'm packing every red/yellow/orange crystal I owncitrine and tiger's eye, calcite and carnelian. I'm also bringing something I'm calling Coming Into the Light tincture, full of herbs with solar properties and fire essences. Cinnamon and orange and rosemary.

This is Leo energy in a bottle. Leo is the sign of fixed fire, ruled by the Sun, and as such, has many of the same associations as The Sun in the tarot (the Sun is primarily associated with Strength, but more on that later). Leo governs our creativity, and like the lion that is its symbol, evokes courage and charisma and confidence. Leo roars. It's good energy to channel during an eclipse, and since this eclipse occurs when the Sun is in the sign of Leo, it's going to pack a double punch.

And do we ever need it. Because even though a solar eclipse is about the sun, it's also about the shadow. Every time I watch the news, I feel that shadow. We have evoked this shadow, make no mistake, and it must be heeded and healed before it will return to its proper role in our lives (and it does have one). A shadow is substance plus light, and in order for the Great American Shadow to heal, we have to look hard at the substance it is revealing. Look hard and good for a very long time. Let the Light shine brightly on it. This is going to burn. It is going to be painful, and the tendency will be to turn away. But we must not. We must keep shining the clear light of truth.

That's what eclipses symbolize, after allprofound, often cataclysmic, change. Astronomer Natalia Kuna explains it thusly:
"First, we have an intense 'power outage' that knocks you right out, and then it is followed by a heightened renaissance: an amped up 'power surge.' In other words you go through a cycle of great intensity that leads to amplified light and growth."
(You would do well to read her entire article if you want to put The Great American Eclipse into perspective.)

This eclipse begins and ends in Leo, but the very next day, the Sun moves into the sign of Virgo, the sign of sovereignty and service and healing, joining the New Moon there as well. This is where the Strength card will come into play, the card traditionally associated with Leo in the tarot. There is a Lion on this card too, but instead of being in full roaring bluster, this Lion has been subdued by the quiet presence of a maiden. Not injured, simply returned to a state of calmness. This is the strength of non-violent control, of composure, of relentless, unswerving dedication. No whips, no chairs. Only love, which is at the heart of any true Virgo endeavor (don't let the rules and fussiness fool you—Virgos have enormous depths of compassion).

May the light of Leo shine like the Sun, and even in the dark of the shadow, may you remember that you have a heart of fire. A lion heart. May it be guided by compassion and strength. May this be true, like the eclipse, from sea to shining sea.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Writerly Guide to Mercury Retrograde YET AGAIN

Yes, Mercury Retrograde is once again upon us as of Saturday night at 9:00 PM EDT. I'm a Virgo, which is a sign ruled by Mercury, so its retrograde energy hits me with a wallop (Geminis, also ruled by Mercury, get an even stronger dose). And since Mercury is in the sign of Virgo when it goes retro this go-round, I suspect we of the Sovereign Sign will be feeling it more than usual.

The retrograde refers to the time that Mercury appears to be going backward in the sky. It's not, of courseTHAT would be the retrograde to end all retrogrades—but because astrology is all about perspective, it's a time of significant and potent energy swirls nonetheless.

Therefore, things get a little screwy, especially in the areas of life that fall under the auspices of Mercury energy: travel, communications, and technology. Anything related to movement and words, really. Yes, I see you skeptics sneering. Of course a tiny little planet zipping in a tight little orbit around a ball of blazing gas can't lose your hotel reservations. That's not how astrology works, silly. The astronomical movement is merely a clue that something's going on that we should pay attention to, like a particular tarot card coming up. The law of averages explains how often cards appear (just like the laws of physics explain why planets appear to go backwards in predictable cycles)—it's we humans who make the meaning.

Mercury often gets a bad rap (one of my mystical friends calls it "The Scapegoat Planet"). Yes, its energy often manifests in a chaotic manner, but that's most often because we fight it. Mercury loves a good tussle, and will give as good as it gets, so put down your dukes and power up your flexibility muscle. You can emerge from Mercury Retrograde not only intact, but stronger for the bargain.

Here are some excellent strategies (if you have more, share them in the comments).

1. Think like The Magician.  Instead of fighting energy or trying to wrestle it into obedience, the Magician understand that when lightning strikes, best to make like a lightning rod and let that pow-bang move through you. Mercury will return your opposition as reaction if you work against it, but if you channel the energy, it is now yours to harness.

2. Ponder like the Seven of Pentacles. We are too often enamored of forward motion. We like speed. We like word counts. We like page totals and checklists checked off check check check. But Mercury Retrograde is about moving forward even if it feels like we are moving backward (emphasis on the "feels"; Mercury loves to play with our "feels"). This is the time for any activity beginning with re—: review, rewrite, rethink, rejoice, recalibrate, recheck, resubmit, rewind, reconsider, rework, and, my personal favorite, revise. Those efforts will be especially powerful now.

3. Chill like The Hanged Man. This is a card of ultimate paradox—to control we must let go. Be receptive to the gifts of surprise and delight that often bloom during the retrograde. Don't get trapped with a bad case of "ought to be"; instead, open to "what is." This is a time when you'll find yourself unexpectedly taking the scenic route, discovering serendipitous connections in mundane places, or finding that a setback might actually lead you to an Aladdin's cave of treasures. Just breathe, watch, be patient. And relax, for crying out loud.

So there you have it, a recipe for creative success during Mercury Retrograde. Enjoy your time backtracking across the sky, and remember, the energy is only what you make of it.

You might want to back up that hard drive and double check those directions, though. Just saying.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Wheel of Fortune

It's one of the more interesting junctures between art and science. It began in 1992 when author John Briggs observed that some of Jackson Pollack's paintings demonstrated fractal patterns, an observation later demonstrated in multiple physics experiments. Now there is some difficulty in defining what a fractal is, but one can think of them as repeating geometric patterns that can be split into parts, each of which is approximately a reduced-size copy of the whole.

Fractals are an important function of chaos theory (you know, the butterfly effect) and they are everywhere in nature, in pineapples and lightning bolts, in snowflakes and fault lines. They are easy to replicate using computer technology, but dang hard to create otherwise. Practically impossible. Pollack could do it, however. He could tap into the same random order that the Universe used to create a chambered nautilus. He was so good at it that fractal pattern analysis can be used to authenticate genuine Pollacks from forgeries.

And what is the Wheel of Fortune but an elaborate fractal pattern, Exhibit A in the deterministic but utterly random nature of the Universe. A dynamic system highly sensitive to initial conditions but not predictable in its final results. Round and round and round she goes, and where she stops...

Well, you get the drift. Sometimes we can peek ahead and see what's up, and sometimes the Wheel spins into territory that we could have in no way seen coming, but which can nonetheless be traced back to a single, singular action. We've been here before, of course. And we'll be here again. Such is the nature of all wheels, but especially this one.

What does it mean for you, dear creative friend? Methinks that this is a week less for pontification and more for pondering. Less for answers and more for questioning. Less about pulling back the veil and more about letting the veil cast its gauzy, hazy, utterly mysterious magic.

You won't be able to predict how your actions this week will spin out, so don't demand that your art conform to expectations either. Let your characters talk back to you, walk out on you, refuse to behave. Follow the side road into territory not on the plot outline. There is no satisfaction guaranteednothing is guaranteed this week. But I can promise you that learning to enjoy the risings and the fallings of this particular Wheel is a worthy goal.

There's a full moon on Monday, peaking in the sign of Aquarius. There's a partial lunar eclipse too. You can count on those two things. As for the results their energy will spin in manifestation...well, even the tarot will be nonplussed this week. And that is not a bad thing.