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

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Luck O' The Irish

“Luck enters into every contingency. 
You are a fool if you forget it -- and a greater fool if you count upon it.” 
                                                ― Phyllis Bottome

Today being St. Patrick's Day, I was thinking of the ironic term, "The Luck of the Irish." Historically, to be Irish is certainly not very lucky.  I suppose if it weren't for bad luck the Irish would have no luck at all.  Just like Irish humor tends to be wry, ironic and a wee bit dark, the phrase is actually meant to point out one's unlucky experiences and its earliest roots can be traced back to Ireland before any immigration to the United States.  In coming to the US, the Irish have withstood not a small amount of racism over the years and when Americans used the phrase it was because they couldn't believe the Irish were actually smart enough to succeed on their own merits, such as when they frequently struck gold in the American West,  so it must be luck.  So while the Irish use the term ironically, Americans tend to use it literally.  It's like an inside joke, and now you get it.

For some perspective, Cracked.com has a great piece on this called "6 Reasons the Irish Aren't So Lucky." 

Luck in the tarot is Fortuna, better known as The Wheel of Fortune, and just like the Luck of the Irish, it isn't always good luck that is portrayed. The name Fortuna may have its root in the Latin fero, meaning "to bring, win, receive, or get" or Fortuna's name may derive from the Etruscan Goddess Voltumna, whose name encompasses ideas of turning and the alternating seasons.

Her temples were virtual casinos in Rome where Fortuna, the lot distributor, reigned and was honored through dice games and roulette.  However, everyone knew of her fickle and capricious nature, so there were no guarantees if you left an offering that she would bless your fate.

In reading for clients I often stress less fate and more direct control over the circumstances in one's life.  However, I cannot deny the reason most people want a tarot reading is to gain a bit of an edge over Fortuna, to glimpse into her plans, if she even has any.  I am not convinced she does.  While some are happier with the notion that "everything happens for a reason" I really don't believe that.  I think we make reason and sense of things in hindsight, after the fact, because we have a need to believe there is an orderly parade to Fate's decisions.  I think Fate can conspire with other forces, most of which lie within ourselves, to bring about good fortune.  We often say, "But if that [insert Bad Luck Thing] didn't happen, I wouldn't be who I am today."  True enough, but I am not certain that it was Fortuna's plan to assist your growth.  It all depends how you use the Bad Luck Thing in your life.  We can, like the Irish, persevere and overcome with strength and humor, or we can let it beat us under the crushing weight of the Wheel. Therein I believe is the true "Luck of the Irish." It is the ability to turn our fates to good no matter what Bad Thing may happen.

“When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.”  ― Edna O'Brien


  1. I believe in "Everything (bad that I'm trying to put a positive spin on) happens for a reason," but I actually think there are three "reasons":
    1. I made a not-so-great-choice
    2. I didn't make any choice, which by default is number 1 above.
    3. Life happened and I (unfortunately) was standing in the middle of the street when it did.
    Great post, as always!

  2. Great post. I like your take on "fate". In a way it's only a different way of looking at "everything happens for a reason" and I share this view. Sometimes we are just "randomly" presented with stuff in life but the crucial point is what we make of it and how we perceive it. Do we see it as bad luck and being punished or do we accept it as part of our life journey and an experience that makes us who we are (i.e. it happened "for a reason")? It makes one hell of a difference.
    I've had a lot of rocks on my road recently but I still consider myself an extremely lucky person for various reasons and that really helps. As you say, perseverance and humour get you through a lot.

  3. I think a lot of people do view "it happened for a reason" as a way to make the best of all experiences, and that is a very positive thing. The way I have heard it expressed sometimes, though, is troubling to me because it seems to be based on an assumption that there is some Master Plan in the works that predisposes the awful things to happen just so we may learn something from them. Tragedies are often met with this kind of trite sentiment which I see as a way of side-stepping grief. How do some people tell someone whose child was murdered that "everything happens for a reason?" What kind of well-meaning but very callous response is that? While I think it's very healthy and positive to find the meaning one looks for in hindsight and to apply that meaning and wisdom to future experiences, I think we can do so without thinking it was all set up or "fated" from the beginning.

  4. My thoughts exactly. While I do believe that we can "attract" certain things into our lives by changing our perception or attitude I would never go as far as saying that you choose or attract the negative things. Some things just "happen" to you. I think it's dangerous to simplify life like that. Saying that everything happens for a reason can also cause feelings of "guilt". I don't like the idea that for example someone who was abused has "attracted" it to learn a lesson. That kind of thinking most likely won't help but add to their torment as in: it's your fault, you wanted it like that. I'm not a big fan of "you have to forgive everyone" either. Perhaps in the long run but I think negative emotions are also a part of our lives and it's important we acknowledge them and I don't think I could "forgive" someone who murdered my child. Not right away anyway...it's a long process of working through all kinds of emotions and coming to terms with what happened. I would also agree that I could never accept that it happened "for a reason". That kind of thinking is a bit dangerous in my view.

  5. I think there are a very few 'fated' situations - more like karmic contracts although how even these manifest often has much to do with how we respond to them. I don't see us as being puppets of the Gods but I do think there is a greater pattern, an overall story arc to our lives.
    Often in readings I notice how the outcome changes according the the Querant's process - or mine for that matter! As you say, much of the time we make our own 'luck' and our own perspective on life can influence how the hand dealt is played.
    Lovely post.

  6. Ginny, I really like this post. I very much agree. I am of the school that says, "you made your bed, now you sleep in it." That is my view of karma. But you said it much better. Sometimes we think that fate plays a part, but I think that sometimes we make mistakes that we don't even notice and that snowball. And sometimes we contribute small acts of kindness that we think are nothing special but also snowball in good ways (Pay it forward philosophy?)Like Ellie (Jodi Foster) says in Contact "Funny, I've always believed that the world is what we make of it."

  7. There are, of course, those uncontrollable events, tragedies, joyous occasions, and moments that take our breath away that we had nothing to do with. And these events could very well have an impact on us, our lives, and our future choices. So there is some "fate" involved in our lives, but what tends to make the difference is how we use those events to change us, whether we will dig deep and bring up good or not so good.

  8. Super post. Agree that it is psychologically damaging to suggest that, say, a rape victim, has either "attracted" the violation or that it is part of some Supra-sensible Architectural Grand Plan designed for spiritual edification. This amounts to an apologia for the harm by displacing it from human responsibility into the sphere of the ineffable and minimises or devalues the injustice suffered. It worries me hugely when our human sphere of moral injury is attributed to Divine agency. As for the Everything is in Divine and Perfect Order thesis - very comforting but it's a corruption of Leibniz - I'm going to have to do a post about Leibniz on my blog now I've read this. And yes, Satu, the issue of forgiveness is immensely complex: the reason people find it so hard to forgive and "move on" is because one has been treated as lacking worth or value - to forgive that could be to say yep, you didn't matter. Which is unacceptable. People do just throw out the concept of forgiveness as if it's obvious what that would mean and pay no attention to what it entails. Oh, and yes Leibniz did have God as the Master Plan Ginny - your hunch is quite right. He called it pre-established harmony and the Everything is in Divine and Perfect Order is extrapolated in an attenuated version of his Principle of Sufficient Reason. As God is good this must be the best of all possible worlds. Drop God out of the picture and you're in trouble. Nor could he account for free-will (tried to but unconvincing). Voltaire responded with "Candide", the satire with Dr Pangloss. I will shut-up now, you touched a nerve that bothers me too. Thanks for this post.

  9. Donna, thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comment. Fortuna has a way of getting those wheels turning. Forgive me, I couldn't resist. Yet the whole concept has puzzled us forever. How much of life is fated and how much is luck and do we make our own fates and luck and if so, how much? My view is -- it depends how you respond to all that conspires, including yourself, to bring you this elaborate thing called Your Life.

  10. Yup. That free will versus determinism is a bit of a misleading distinction. It's more of a confluence or network or interchange of multiple factors and it can be difficult to ascribe specifics to either side. For example you might be free to act in a certain way but your choices could be defined by your social environment and culture. Whatever choice you make is always already inscribed within a context you haven't freely chosen. And that's just at a mundane level. There's no absolute freedom. I'm not even sure what that would look like with no context.


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