Sunday, July 31, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Nine of Cups

Today the Wheel of the Year turns, ushering in the Gaelic feast day of Lughnasadh, the first of the mid- to late-summer harvest festivals celebrated through Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Also known as Lammas, or "loaf-mass," in English-speaking countries, this holiday is a celebration of the first wheat harvest, and all the goodness that derives from that grain, especially bread.

Bread is more than physical sustenance—it is also a symbol of our connection to the cycles of life, and to each other. It is no coincidence that the word "companion" come from the Old French compaignon, literally "one who shares bread" (the Latin com which means "together" and panis which means "bread").

I was thinking about these themes when I turned over the card for this week's reading, so I was not a bit surprised to see the Nine of Cups shining there. What a bountiful card this is, and what an appropriate day for it to grace our presence. It does come with one warning, though—in abundance, we must also be generous. This card is often called the "wish" card, but as those old stories about genies illustrate, we must be careful what we wish for. We must never confuse abundance with a static state, a have or have-not duality. Generosity is an energy, less about the bread than the active breaking of it.

This week, ponder the nature of your resources both creative and otherwise. Who do you break bread with, both literally and figuratively? Who shares the abundance of your table? Who invites you to share in theirs? Think about these people this week, both past and present. Connect to them in your thoughts, and if possible, in your words. Perhaps even bake some actual, honest-to-goodness bread to share with them, a tangible symbol of your gratitude for their presence in your life. Here is a very simple, and very good, recipe. Don't let your resources stagnate with you.

For this is the truth all creative folk understand—we are not islands unto ourselves. Our art connects us to each other, and to the Universe. Not a word we write exists in isolation for we are using the same ancient tools—in the case of us English speakers, twenty-six of them—that have been used for thousands of years. We are artisans and architects, keepers of a sacred well, tenders of an old old fire. When we sit down to the page, we are always in good company. And as such, we should always be grateful. We should always raise our metaphorical cups in salute.

Have a blessed Loaf Day! May it be fruitful now and throughout your harvest season!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Four of Wands

We're having quite the all-suit summerlast week was the Five of Cups, the week before the Three of Pentacles. I'm betting the Swords will make themselves known next week. But for now we have an emissary from the suit of Wands, the suit of energy and passion, and what a welcome image this four presents.

We have been visited by this gracious card recently (you can read about that here) but in light of what has gone before, the card has a different flavor this week. The Wands are the suit of creativity, yes, representing the element of fire in all its sparky, jazzy, hot lick glory. Wands do tend to run wild, though, except in this cardthe Four tempers all this fiery goodness into a slow, steady burn. Fours contain, which may seem anathema to an energy as vibrant and vital and free as fire, but in some cases, this tension between running free and staying put is a useful one. Think campfire versus forest fire.

Fours can also represent culmination, but I'm not getting that feel this week, at least not in an end-result kind of way. Chances are good, though, that you will be finishing an important stage in a larger project (think of the detail work of the Three of Pentacles) and fully moving through some emotional challenges and discovering some latent good in a situation that seemed very all-is-lost  (think of the spilled chalices in the Five of Cups, and the upright cups still remaining to be tasted thanks to The Daily Compost for that insight!).

The Four of Wands is a moment of celebration. It exists only because we choose its existence, because we honor and hollow a moment of gratitude. This week, string up what garlands as ye may and raise a cheer. You have good work behind you and good work before, and that is truly a blessing.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Five of Cups

Oh, but we have all been there. And here we are again.

The Five of Cups turned up earlier this yearyou can read about its previous incarnation hereand its energy has not changed. It is still the card of loss and grief, of missed opportunities, of the pain that comes when something that matters very much is gone. Gone is a natural and necessary part of the cycle, of course, but gone is also hard.

Very hard.

We are much more comfortable with the "building up" part of the cycle, construction and manifestation. Having our hopes and dreams become tangible (like last week's Three of Pentacles) appeals to our sense of reward. It gives our actions purpose. Word by word, day after day, and soon enough you've got a novel. Yay us! Accomplishment feels right and good and, darn it, we deserve a little rightness and goodness after we sweated through all that work.

And then there's this guy. AGAIN.

He's always there, of course. Even when we have pushed up our shirtsleeves and gotten to work. Even when the sun is shining with optimism and clarity upon our plans. Even when the Universe Herself is giving us a loving pat on the back.

This week, even if things are going swimmingly for you (and I sure hope they are), make some space for the Five of Cups. The building blocks of success didn't just materialize out of thin aireverything comes from source, and every source material was something else not that long ago. Something that crumbled and dissolved and changed and transmuted. Acknowledge that. Sit with it through whatever discomfort arises. Let it arise. It is actually your friend.

Be grateful for empty spaces. Despite what you have been told, Nature loves a vacuum. Nature rushes to a vacuum with everything she's got.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Three of Pentacles

Roll up your sleeves and let's get to work, peoplethe Three of Pentacles is in the house.

Since the Pentacles (or Coins or Discs) is the suit of all things foundational and material, it has a lot of advice to offer about work, especially the nuts and bolts and day-to-day practice of it.

Because as any writer knows, putting words on a page is real, often challenging, work. Sometimes inspiration flows; sometimes we're digging spoonfuls of dust from a dry well. Sometimes anything, even cleaning out the proverbial litter box, sounds better than bellying up to our work in progress.

And yet writers write. We show up at the page again and again. We keep our appointments and trust that our Muses will keep theirs. Writing is Pentacle business, sure enough, and this week the Three of Pentacles is here to remind us why that practical aspect of writing is just as important as its more emotional or imaginative components.

Let's start with that word "work." It has connotations of drudgery, unpleasantness. Work is the thing you must do before you can do the thing you want to do. Mystics of an alchemical bent, however, speak of the Great Work, a holy process of becoming, of learning and achieving one's true will and purpose. When we do the thing we are called to do, when we practice our spiritual vocation, we play our part in this great unfolding. The Great Work is huge, yes, but it is composed of our daily work in the same way that a novel is built word by word, each word built letter by letter. In the Great Work, there is no separation between the mystical and mundane except in our thinking.

This understanding is key to the Three of Pentacles. A group of workers gather under a gracefully constructed arch. The brickwork around the arch reveals it to be part of a larger building, but this singular feature holds our workers' attention. One has climbed atop a bench to get a closer look. Another consults what looks like plans or blueprints. They know that this piece matters, that it belongs to a greater creation that can only be achieved by getting this part exactly right. And so that is what they are doing. It is work, yes. But it is also love.

This week, you have work before you. The Three of Pentacles is here to assure you that it is good work, that you are laying a strong foundation for a larger success. Knowing this, seek satisfaction in even the smallest task. Pay attention to the minute details. Get up close. Run your finger along the lines of what you are creating and be grateful that the Universe has placed such a finely wrought piece into your care.

Ready to begin? Then let us begin.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Ten of Cups

It's definitely a holiday weekend around here at Whittle Central. We're all home, for one, and there are tasty eats being prepared (in our case we're celebrating America by cooking a Mediterranean feast of epic proportions). We're all engaged in various projects, but not a single one of us feels obliged to crack down on our official to-do lists. So no engineering, no opening the college history book, and in my case, not a single bit of PR or promo work or (ack) bookkeeping.

Writing itself? Oh sure, I'll be doing some of that. But it will be purely for the joy of it today, not to make a word count. Maybe I'll treat my characters to a fireworks show and see what other kinds of fireworks might happen. Or maybe I'll let them have a dinner date that doesn't involve a criminal investigation. Regardless, it will be a just-for-fun scene that has no place in the plot-driven mystery novels they inhabit, but that I enjoy writing so very much.

That's the lesson I'm taking from the Ten of Cups, which is a card of well-earned joy. Tens are cards of culmination, and the Cups are the suit of emotions (and how we order and experience them) so a little celebration feels in order. For me, that means I'll be including my fictional people in my activities, but more importantly, I'm making time for my flesh and blood people. The Fourth of July is called Independence Day, but in the middle of all the red, white, and blue, I think what we're truly celebrating is our connection to each other. It takes an us to make a USA. And I have some fine people to call mine.

This week, honor your creative spirit by being grateful for all the joy that it has brought into your life. And be especially grateful for all the people who have helped you along the way -- your family, your friends, your creative tribe. Every hand that has taken yours in encouragement or assistance or camaraderie. All these shared moments are culminating in the right here/right now of who you are. Which is not where you were when you started this creative journey, I am willing to bet.

Happy 4th of July! May it herald a fantastic second half to your 2017!