Sunday, June 25, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Seven of Wands

You're right, of course.

Of course you are. I mean, you wouldn't spend all this time and energy defending something you were wrong about, now would you? It's the principle of the thing, after all. Sometimes you just have to stick up for yourself and what's right, and you do know what's right...don't you?

The Seven of Wands has no opinion about the correctness of your beliefs. It does, however, insist that you must fight to defend them. And unlike the casual stick-rattling in the Five of Wands, the Seven is serious. This is a fight that matters.

Why? Because your beliefs are the foundation upon which your passion finds expression. What you believe falls under the purview of the Swordshow you act upon those beliefs finds expression in the Wands.

The image on the card makes this clear. Yes, our hero is embattled. Yes, he's defending with all he's got, strongly and actively. Yes, he's outnumbered. But look what he's protectingnothing less than his entire worldview. All that matters to him is on the line, and it's a line he's prepared to hold against all assailants. And they are many. He's outgunned—well, out-sticked anyway—six to one. But what a feisty one he is.

This week, you may find yourself challenged. The matter may seen insignificant on the surface, but make no mistake—a load-bearing wall of your identity is on the line, and right or wrong, you are being called to defend it. Is it worth the inevitable conflict and bruising? Is this a hill you're willing to die on? And—because this is the crux of the matter—would it be a bad thing if you did? (remembering that in the tarot, Death doesn't mean death, only transformation.)

Only you can decide. Only you know if the ground beneath your feet is your true home turf. And only you stand on the front line of it.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The High Priestess

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
Stephen Crane 

I am an inside person.

This is a good thing for writers, most of the time anyway, as we tend to spend a lot of our working day planted in front of our writing tool of choice, being interior. Inside the story, inside the characters, inside our own heads.

To outside people—those extroverts who climb mountains for fun, or shoot down whitewater rapids, or dance until dawn o'clock—inside spaces can feel limited. Boundaried. Without movement or action. I sympathize with those people when cards like The High Priestess turn up in a reading. After all, people come to the tarot for information, usually because they have a choice to make. They come because they need to move forward. They do not want to see the card of emptiness and passivity on their plate.

The High Priestess understands. Her understanding, however, does not create a sense of obligation.

There's a lot of symbolism to unpack in this card's image, ancient Kabbalistic references to severity and mercy, law and lore, potential and realization. The crescent moon at her feet and the full moon on her brow link her to the deepest mysteries of the divine feminine. There are treasures here that will not be plundered; they must be revealed. And they will only be revealed in stillness and silence.

This week, bring whatever creative conundrum you wish before The High Priestess. Lay it at her feet. Then sit back and wait. Keep your sticky fingers off your problem; no poking and definitely no prodding. Do not check your watch.  Do not expect the Priestess to say or do a thing. Eventually the time will come when you are to rise and go, leaving your wholly unresolved dilemma behind you. Do this. Do not look back. The old tales are heavy with the tragic stories of the one-last-look-backers.

Now go about your work. Eventually...well, I don't know what will happen eventually. She does, however. And that is all I know, and all you need to know, of this card.

Monday, June 12, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Queen of Wands

I'm currently writing a story about a Queen of Wands—vivacious, attractive, somewhat restless, quick with ideas and plans and "let's do this!" schemes. As one of the court cards of this suit, the Queen of Wands personifies warmth and generosity and magnetic charm. For as Arthur Waite himself pointed out, the wands you see portrayed here are not dead wood—they are always alive and in leaf.

I enjoy writing about these particular queens, probably because I'm such an earthbound Pentacle myself; my series sleuth Tai Randolph, who has been with me for six books so far, is a classic Wands personality. Her sun sign is Aries, Cardinal Fire, which means that it carries the qualities of elemental fire—quickness, passion, wholehearted enthusiasmin one direction, forward. The Queen of Wands makes things happen. She initiates. Follow-through is not her strong point, but she'll always come out of the gate with a bang.

Some contemporary schools of thought assign Cardinality to the Knights, however, not the Queens, and I'm inclined to agree. Knights are much more tally-ho about things, charging here and there, questing and jousting and generally staying in motion. When I'm reading the cards, Queen are much more interior. They represent states of being. They have thrones, after all, not horses. They don't flit hither and yon.

So what does this means for you and me as creative people this week, to have such royalty grant us an audience? For me, it means that the project I am just beginning will benefit from two key if somewhat paradoxical aspects of this Queen—her ability to make a strong start combined with her ability to be centered in her own power. It's a tricky trick, being still and in movement at the same time. But it's what story requires of us. Sometimes the story leads; sometimes we have to give the reins a sharp pull. Always we have to be in partnership with our own creative process.

This week, if you find yourself fighting the work before you, find a comfy place to sit and arrange yourself there royally. Feel your backbone straighten, your brow uncrease. The wand you wield is a powerful one, as useful as a scepter as it is as a jousting stick. A queen knows how to do both, and when to do each. Be a queen. Sense your next move, the one that will clear the way. You'll know you have it when a little black cat comes and sits at your feet.

(For further information about the astrological associations of tarot, especially the court cards, check out Richard Palmer's explanation the Golden Dawn's elemental tarot associations at The Biddy Tarot, or this essay at Tarot Moon on court card astrology).

Sunday, June 4, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Five of Pentacles

It's me, your humble tarot servant, writing to you from under a mound of blankets with a thermometer stuck in my mouth and a box of tissues at my elbow.

Yes, it's a sick day. An early summer cold, the nastiest of the breed. At least in the winter one can sink into the misery of being inside because the outside isn't much better. And I don't mind an August cold, eitherany port in that hundred-degree storm. But on days like today, mild and ripening, with gardenias scenting the air...


So instead of getting germs all over my tarot deckwhich tarot decks do not like, let me tell youI decided to write about the card that the Universe pulled for me, the Five of Pentacles (you can read about a previous time it showed up, around the Winter Solstice no less, HERE).

The Pentacles are the suit of foundation, and of all the ways that we experience being physical in the world. Therefore they tend to show up with information about earthy things: our homes, our jobs, our health. Money and wellness andas this Five demonstratesthe lack thereof.

As material abundance goes, these two sad souls have nothing. Bandaged and limping, hunched over and freezing, their clothes not nearly warm enough for the bitter cold surrounding them, they are misery personified. But look behind them, to the glowing stained glass window of what appears to be a church. It seems warm and blessed in there, it certainly does.

So why are our beggars not choosing that sanctuary? Are they blind to the comfort there? Unwilling to take it? Or have they been rejected by those who would prefer to keep that comfort all to themselves?

The tarot lets us decide. We use the surrounding cards to give the image nuance and subtext. Today, I am sick. But I have a family to care for me, money to buy medicine, soup from the neighborhood restaurant, and a comfortable bed to recuperate in. In a divinatory sense, the Five of Pentacles often shows up at times of physical illness or material discomfort. That's appropriate enough for my situation today.

But, as always, it carries a potent reminder that our day-to-day struggles and joys are part of a larger cycle, a cog within a great wheel. This is an especially important reminder to those of us who do creative work, which can often feel very introverted and solitary, an island in an enormous sea.

Even islands are not separate. They are connected to the water that laps on their shores, to the sun that shines and the birds that perch and the air that moves. Isolation is an illusion. A necessary one at times (like free will) but an illusion nonetheless.

This week, there is probably something that could be better in your physical surroundings. It may even be something affecting your creative work, like a lumpy chair or a noisy dog or a nasty cold. Do your best to ameliorate it. A solution could be close at hand. You might be a little snowblind. Or perhaps the unpleasantness this week is actually a key, one that you can use to unlock a door that you didn't even know was there, one that leads to an outside rougher than you imagined. Perhaps you will then realize that even in your particular misery, you have a lot of share.

Open the door a little wider. That's how the light gets out.