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.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Writerly Tarot: The Three of Pentacles

At the tail end of last week, I finished the draft for what I am hoping will be the sixth book in my mystery series. 86,558 words. It felt really good to lay down that metaphorical pen and walk blinking into the sunlight.

It's a big step, but of course it is only a step. Next it goes to my editors. And that's where the Three of Pentacles work begins. We've visited this card twice in the past (I wrote about it as a representation of the Great Work HERE, and as the card of collaboration HERE) and so today I look at it through my own personal lens, which this morning is one of amazement at all of the different facets a creative work brings into focus.

There is planning, represented here by the figure with the blueprints, the bringer of equations and theory, eye-pleasing arches and load-bearing walls. There is practice, the worker atop the bench, translating the words and images into brick and mortar. And there is inspiration, the tonsured priest, providing the reminder that the spark at the heart of any creative endeavor can be a connection to a larger purpose (and that one would not be off-base to think of it as Divine, if one so choosesnot required but absolutely appropriate).

At different times in the process, I am all of these people. I serve as priest and architect and craftsperson as word by word my work begins to stand on its own. Hopefully it will be a place that people will want to visit—I have tried to make it welcoming and lovely and accessible, tried very hard—but I am content that it exists as both a product of my expectations and separate from them. I am content that I did my very best.

It's not turn-key ready, not yet. But I am excited to think that it will be soon.

This week, consider the different ways that you show up for your own work. Ponder the specific joys and satisfactions of each. There is delight in sandpapering that is equal to the delight of blessing that is equal to the delight of planning the broad strokes of a soaring cathedral. Be grateful for them all.

Monday, May 22, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Seven of Swords

It is raining here as I write, not the gentle showers of April. No, this is the roaring lion of May come down to growl and pace and throw himself around a bit. My dog is hiding with each thundercrack, and I am grateful to have a roof over my head on such a night.

I am one paragraph away from finishing the draft of what (I hope) will be the sixth book in my mystery series. I need to get to that paragraph. I need to be done. And yet I am still crossing off items on my to-do list. I have paid the bills, cooked the supper, written the letters, proofed the blog. Check and check again.

And now this last thing to do. When did tarot become a chore? A task?

Alas, that is not how it's supposed to work. So it is with little surprise that when I finally settle down to get this post written, and I turn over the card, it is the Seven of Swords, the card of sneak thievery.

He has tiptoed into our readings before. What I said about him then still resonates:
Of course, to call him a thief is to presume that the swords he is so stealthily carting away don't belong to him already. Perhaps he is simply reclaiming what was rightfully his in the first place, which makes this a mission of liberation, not larceny. The image is open to interpretation, and that's what you must do this week.

Contemplate the Larger Enterprise of which you are a part — has something of creative value been taken from you (or vice versa, it must be admitted)? What means justify the ends of getting it back? What steps should you take to correct this imbalance? And what exactly is it that's been (or is being) snatched away?
If I am to heed my own advice (and surely I should, for what's the point of sharing useless advice?), then I must look this thief in the eye and realize that he works for me. I hired him to steal snippets of time. He picks the locks with his tool of multitasking, but what he doesn't say is that his services cost me more than any purloined bounty he brings.

Today I have double-teamed every moment I have had. Not one has been deep, or singular, or purely experienced. I have charged through every single one, desperate to get to the next item and check it off.

Some days are like this, I know. Best to put one's head down and keep moving forward, stubborn as a bull. One step after another. But today there have been gardenias and rainbows and red wine, and the thief I hired to steal time for me has instead stolen moments from me.

This, not this week. Right now. Put down your creative to-do list and claim instead an hour of non-productive non-work. Don't check off anything. Don't rush through an unpleasant task. Creativity is a gift we give ourselves. Send the thief packing. Let the seconds run through your fingers indolent and lovely. And know that I am taking my own advice, as of right this very second.

It's time to unplug and sit with the lightning.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Empress

Occasionally here at The Writerly Tarot, I break procedure and instead of pulling a random card from the deck, I choose one deliberately. I do this on the sabbats, those eight turnings of the Wheel of the Year that mark the solstices and equinoxes and cross-quarter celebration days.

I'm being deliberate again today, even though this weekend's holiday is a secular and not particularly spiritual one--Mother's Day. (Hint: If you haven't called your mother already, this is the Universe reminding you to do so). This day is probably second only to Valentine's Day in terms of floral purchases--likewise perfume and candy--but there's actually a deep significance to Mother's Day that goes deeper than its commercial expressions. 

The modern concept of Mother's Day began with Anna Jarvis, who wanted to celebrate her own mother, peace activist Ann Reeves Jarvis, who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War and who created Mother's Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. And while the holiday does celebrate (as Ann Jarvis describes) "the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world," the day actually celebrates the deeper commitment to service to humankind.

And to peace. Julia Ward Howe's famous Mother's Day Proclamation echoed this call boldly:
Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be of water or of tears! 

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
Like Mother's Day, the Empress has depths. On the surface, she is the epitome of creative fertility, the Queen of the May, the Lady of the Land and all that it provides. And she is. But she is also the Lady of blood and fire and pain, for both birth and death are her purview. And yet here, as the Empress, she offers us bounty and blessings, abundance and Love, the big good kind. Her arms are open to all.

This week, be grateful for all the mothering and nurturing that you have received, and for all the ways that you have been able to share it, whether in a literal sense with your own mother, or in a metaphorical sense with women and men who have cared for you or nurtured your endeavors. And you know those people.

So yes, be sure to call your mom (that's the second time I've told you, so...) But yes also, say thank you this week. Say it in an email or a phone call or better-best in person. Be specific. Surely there is someone in your life who provided some precious water to a seedling of your very own. The Universe wants you to let them know you are grateful.

And have a blessed and fruitful Mother's Day. Peace be with you.