78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Star's Hope
Classic Tarot by Carlo DellaRocca
Published by Lo Scarabeo 2000
The Star is always trotted out as one of the most wonderful cards, always.  Then why, when I see it, doesn't it make me happy?  I've said before it could be that I'm more geared toward immediate gratification so when I see the Star it tells me I'm on the right track but it's going to be a good while before I reach my goal and that just frustrates me.  It's always good to see the Star coming up for what a romantic partner thinks of you, but that too kind of irritates because inevitably the ones who always think the Star of you are the ones who also keep you at a distance.  Like you're up on some lofty pedestal or something.  Since readings have been sparse lately -- cue shameless promotional plug: it would be a great time to schedule a tarot reading with me now because there will be little to no wait -- I've had some time to poke around and research this card that seems oh so great but always bothers me.  I think I've uncovered something more than a naked lady playing with water.

The generic description of the card features "a goddess"...wait, which goddess?  And do they call her a goddess because she is both beautiful and naked or because she represents a particular goddess myth?  Choosing to go with the latter, I researched goddesses associated with either stars or water.  I found Inanna, Sumerian goddess of rebirth.  Hold up.  Rebirth?  Wouldn't that be better associated with Judgement?  Maybe, but there's a lot more.  Others have seen the similarities to Inanna and the tarot Star card, too, and what they are seeing is more than rebirth but alignment with a myth that is only a part, but an important part, of Inanna's legend.  Typically, images of Inanna show her either richly dressed or naked.  In the story, "Inanna's Descent to the Underworld," which is most useful for the Star imagery, she is stripped of her clothing.  Also, for a time during that journey, nature "dies" with Inanna and nothing would grow.  It was only when she returned to earth that things began blooming and growing again, hence her fertility goddess role and the watering of the earth.  Also, her symbol all over Mesopotamia is the 8-pointed star. 

Maybe I should tell the story. Essentially,  Inanna needed to visit her sister Ereshkigal who rules the Underworld. She heard her sister's baneful moaning and felt compelled to see her.  Any trek to the Underworld risks death, so she garbed herself accordingly: with her crown on her head, lapis lazuli around her neck, a golden bracelet, and a royal robe on her body and a breastplate.  She also took a lapis measuring rod and line.  When she was announced at the gate, her sister became more agitated and only allowed each of the gates to be opened a crack and Inanna had to remove her garments and ornaments in order to squeeze through each one.  She arrived at her destination naked and vulnerable.  The judges of the Underworld ruled against her and her sister killed her.  She became a rotting corpse and was hung from a hook on the wall.

Her companion outside the gates waited three days and then went seeking help from various Gods and finally Enki,God of Wisdom and Water who had originally blessed Inanna prior to her descent, came to his aid. He created two creatures and gave them the food and water of life to take to Inanna.  They snuck into the Underworld and found Ereshkigal in a very distressed state, moaning and crying.  Whatever agony she named, they would speak it back to her.  Finally she stopped and blessed the creatures and promised to give them whatever they asked.  They asked for Inanna's corpse, of course. As part of the deal of reviving her, though, she had to choose another person to go in her place.  She ended up choosing her husband because while she was gone, he had gone about his life as if nothing had happened.  Though she loved him very much it was clear he didn't love her the same.

Carl Jung, pioneer psychoanalyst who worked extensively with archetypes and myth in his practice and writings wrote some commentary on the Inanna's Descent myth.  I found this commentary to be so very enlightening with respect to the Star imagery.  The commentary focuses on the Inanna story as it illustrates a journey of deep depression.  His commentary, even more than the myth itself, speaks to why this card doesn't always feel so "happy" or "good."  It represents the afterwards, the time following a very rigorous examination of one's shadow self, a time of deep darkness and depression.   It's as if there is a pause between the Tower and the Star, a time spent in the Underworld groaning, moaning, and dying, a time of utter hopelessness.  We don't see this in tarot as it happens in the nether realms, but it is important to understand the cause of the hope the Star implies.  The article states: "The solution to depression lies not in great intellectual power, nor in great emotional power. It comes from Wisdom, which encompasses all of the psychological functions."  Ah! The missing virtue in tarot! Prudence!  The hope she has comes from Wisdom, and from knowing that whatever depths she has visited can be overcome with Wisdom.  She has also discarded her former garments for she has learned their value is little compared to the experience of facing her shadow self and integrating it into her being and becoming whole.

Being a veteran of my own treks to the Underworld, I know intimately the cost of depression. Upon my return, I was not happy-go-lucky but I did acquire hope.  In the depths, I could not see what there was to look towards.  In my ascent, I had hope that things would get better, I would get better.  The Star is that time, when you have integrated something rather dark, tragic, painful and costly into your being and, surviving that after having already survived the Tower experience that preceded it, your skin still raw and wet from rebirth, your psyche still wounded and painful to the touch, you spend some time tending to that which you could not when you were "away."  Inanna's earth would not grow, so she is watering it to revive its life.  The water would not flow, so she is pouring her tears into the stream.  It is a time of reclamation, without which we could not move on.   You may have to cut ties with people who, as you found out when you were gone, didn't really give a crap about you, like Inanna's husband.  You start the process of pruning the overgrowth.  This isn't an easy time, but it is a hopeful time.  It's a time when others may expect you to be back to "your old self."  How do you tell them your old self has died, never to return?  Besides, it will be a while before the process of reclamation is done, before you get where you're appointed to go. But it will never be as it was before.  You are changed. Your direction will likely change.  This is a card of work and healing and growth and yes, rebirth.

Now I understand why it unsettles me so.  I know this work. There is a reason stars only shine at night and why the Moon follows this one in tarot progression.  It's like that poem by Robert Frost, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening."
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Paranormal Tarot Investigations
I've always wanted to see a ghost.  I don't know what I would do if I actually saw one, but since I was young I have been fascinated with the idea of actually seeing, with my own eyes, an apparition of a spirit entity.  My friends who have seen such things assure me it's not all it's cracked up to be and it would scare the living crap out of me.  I expect they are correct.  So maybe it's a good thing that I don't "see dead people" on the regular.  However, I have had a few odd experiences that I cannot explain.  I thought I would use tarot to shed some light on these strange experiences.

I have a shadow cat.  I have had this "companion" for a long time and cannot remember when I first began noticing its presence.  All I know is that it tends to simply be in my home, wherever my home may be, and its appearance is incredibly random.  I never told anyone about the "cat" because I value being seen as a sane individual and partly figured it might be a figment of my imagination anyway.  This "cat" will move about my home, under furniture, around corners, and rub against me.  I will usually only see it out of the corner of my eye as it walks behind the sofa, under the table, or around the corner into the next room.  I feel very comforted when I see it, it makes me smile both inside and out, like a real cat companion would.  I do not know its gender, if it has one, nor its name.  I see it as a black cat, but that could be because it is shadowy.  I didn't mention any of this to my boyfriend, Mike, when we moved in together.  Why would I?  I mean, it's all in my mind, right?  That is, until he spoke up one night and said,  "I saw a cat in the apartment today."  I stared at him.
 "We don't have a cat," I said, stating the obvious.
"I know, silly.  It wasn't a cat, really, but I saw a cat kind of slink under that table over there and into our bedroom.  It was weird."
"Oh.  That's my cat." I tried to sound nonchalant.
"And you were planning to tell me about this when?" he eyed me.
"Never.  But now that you've seen it." I shrugged.  I was acting quite cool about it but in reality I was amazed that someone else had seen my cat.  Mike is very empathic, but I didn't think he'd actually see my cat.  Now I'm not so embarrassed about it because his seeing it validates that I am not imagining it.
I was talking about my cat to a friend while my daughter was in the room.  She had never heard me talk about it before, and her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open.  I thought she was thinking her mom had gone mad.
"What?" I asked.
"Well, you never told me that before," she said.
"I don't parade my insanity before my children," I laughed.
"Well, because one night I was semi-sleeping and I felt a cat jump on my bed.  I thought it was Cinnamon (our real cat), but when I reached out to pet him, there was nothing there."
"Really? Wow.  Ok, yeah, that was probably my cat. I wish you had told me because it wasn't until Mike told me he saw it that I realized it wasn't all in my head."

I really wish I knew why this cat has hung around me for so long and if there is a particular spiritual significance other than companionship for its presence.  Some have told me it is my "familiar" but I'm not into witchcraft or anything like that.  Is there any reason a non-witch would have a familiar?  And I have no control over when it shows up.  It's not like I can call it and it appears.  It shows up very randomly of its own accord.

I asked tarot to tell me about the cat:

The 6 of Swords is a transitional card having to do with moving and traveling, but because it is of the Swords suit, we focus more on the state of mind which prompts the progression from moving from a rather unhealthy state to a more peaceful frame of mind.  Two elements are featured prominently in this card: air and water.  The wooden boat suggests earth as well, though it is designed to float on the emotional water.  The implication here is that it is a time when one can evaluate one's thought process and one's emotions without being engulfed by the attending emotions, safe and grounded in an earthen vessel.  The ferryman is a guide to this process.  So could the cat be a manifestation of a guide that assists in my life transitions? 

I love that the Strength kitty showed up.  It's definitely feline. Offering a kind of peaceful strength in times when its needed. It may also suggest that the unassuming kitty may be a lot more powerful than I think.  The Moon may suggest I'm crazy and seeing illusions and imagining things, which I thought was true, but since both my partner and my daughter have validated my sightings, I'm more inclined to think the Moon is pointing to the spiritual feminine and the shapeshifting qualities of such an "animal."  There is an otherworldly aura to the Moon, a card of spiritual and subconscious depth and intuition.  The light of the moon is a shadowy guide through the night, so again it feels like it's saying the cat is an intuitive guide. 

Another weird and very disturbing sighting of something I have no name or explanation for happened randomly one evening when Mike and I were driving to a friend's home across town.  It was dusk, but we didn't need the headlights on just yet.  Our friends lived in an apartment complex behind a large cemetery, so Mike, who was driving, took a shortcut on the road that runs through the cemetery.  He was driving slowly as one does in a cemetery, like 15 mph or something.  I was gazing out the passenger side window at the headstones and saw a..."creature" walking between the graves and down a slight hill.  It looked odd so I sat up straight and looked closer.  It was as large as a Great Dane but its hind end was higher than its front, much as a human might be postured if down on hands and feet, but its gait was smooth and comfortable as opposed to a human trying to awkwardly travel that way.  It was covered in gray, shaggy, medium length fur.  It's muzzle was elongated, and its head quite large.  This was no dog or wolf nor was it a deer, as some have suggested.  It did not appear to notice us and it casually walked on in the opposite direction that we were driving.  "What was THAT!" I exclaimed and looked over at Mike.  When I looked back at the creature it had disappeared.   Mike didn't see it but he saw the look on my face and heard the slight panic in my voice.  He has no doubt that I saw something very unusual given my reaction.  I described what I saw in as much detail as I could, and I was seriously shaken.
"I wish you had seen it," I said.
"I didn't need to see it, I saw your face after you saw it," he answered.
 Upon arriving home that evening I tried to research what I might have seen.  The closest description is of a Black Dog or Barghest, but I am not sure. 

I drew three cards on my graveyard sighting and this is the result:

The Tower suggests the shock I felt and still feel at seeing the creature.  It was entirely unexpected, I wasn't on any sort of paranormal exploration nor did I remotely expect to encounter anything out of the ordinary.  Judgement is rather eerie here with the image of the graves and the formerly dead rising out of them.  Did I encounter an otherworldly or undead being?  The angel, too, suggests a spirit guardian of sorts and these types of mythical dogs have a reputation of being "guardians of the corpse-ways" and are, according to the stories, often sighted in cemeteries.  Angels are also messengers, but I don't know, even four years since, what message this sighting was supposed to have brought.  The 9 of Pentacles gives an assurance that all is well, however, no need to be frightened, I am safe and secure and well-grounded -- i.e., not crazy.

I'm glad tarot, at least, defends my sanity.

I'd love to hear others' views on these weird experiences.  Any insights?  Feel free to share your own strange experiences and any readings you've done on them.