Friday, February 17, 2012

on the cosmic tarot

Each time I look at this deck I remember how much I love it.  I think that of all my decks this is the one I'd say has my favourite style of artwork.  It isn't the deck I use the most, but it's certainly one I enjoy just flicking through and getting lost in.

 The Fool, King of Cups

 Four and Nine of Pentacles

 Two and Seven of Swords

 The Hermit and The Chariot

 The Heirophant and the Moon

 The Star and The World

The Cosmic Tarot provides a solid framework with its basis in the Golden Dawn system and also has plenty of scope for intuitive interpretation. The artwork is, in my opinion, almost unequalled in modern tarot decks. Having now been in print for almost 25 years is a testament to both its substance and beauty. I've written a full review of the deck which you can read here on the Aeclectic Tarot website.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

on counting sheep

Back on January 16th I posted about how I was losing some interest in tarot and considering ‘moving on’.  I have to say, I’m now feeling a little sheepish.  Since actually making public those thoughts I have had a complete turnaround.  I’m more enthused about tarot than I have been in the past twelve months, I’m posting more regularly, and I’m just generally more excited about all things tarot.  And yes, it is a little embarrassing.  
The Moon - Housewives Tarot
I often find this happens to me.  If I declare something publically without really thinking it through I’m bound to have those cringe worthy moments that I find myself in now.  Reading over past assertions and being confronted with my failings and shortcomings.  Oh well, surely there is some dignity in being able to also admit this publically too.

When re-reading the beginning of this post I wondered about my use of the word sheepish, not a word that I often use.  I decided to look it up in the dictionary to make sure that it really did fit in this context, and sure enough…..

“adj 1. abashed or embarrassed, esp through looking foolish or being in the wrong  or  “If you look sheepish, you look slightly embarrassed because you feel foolish or you have done something silly.”  

Interestingly, it can also mean “resembling a sheep in timidity or lack of initiative”, which in some ways seems the opposite of the above in the sense that I WISH I’d been a bit more timid and kept my thoughts to myself.

Loving as I do to include images with all my posts I thought a sheep was in order, and considering this is predominantly a tarot blog I decided a tarot card with a sheep on it would do the job.  Hmm, not too many of them around are there?  Before I know it I’m hunting high and low, and seeking help on the Aeclectic forum (thanks everyone) to try and track down as many tarot sheep as I could find.

 This first card came to mind very quickly as it’s from one of my favourite decks, the Tarot of the Master, a reproduction of the Vacchetta deck from 1893.  Below you can see the Queen of Batons.  I’ve always found this a beautiful image and one that gives a sense of nurture and mutual compassion.

There is also the Gumppenberg Lombardy deck where once again the Queen of Batons also shows a sheep, well kind of, it’s on the arm of her chair.  I was intrigued that both these decks had the Queen of Batons/Staves with a sheep or sheep. 

Now in the Golden Dawn system, which doesn’t apply to either of these decks, the Queen of Wands (Batons/Staves) is linked to the astrological sign of Aries, and the sign of Aries is represented by the ram.  Not exactly the sheepish sheep I originally had in mind, but still somewhat interesting.  I thought of the Aries personality, that rush in without thinking, follow your passion whatever the consequences, put your foot in it style of doing things…..and then, perhaps afterwards the Ram becomes the sheep, sheepish, and a little less enthusiastic about things than they were earlier.  Maybe.

The Mythic and Celestial Tarots both attribute the King of Wands to the sign of Aries and include rams in the image.  The Mythic also shows a ram on its Page of Cups.  In this image we see Phrixus riding the golden fleeced ram sent by Zeus in order for him to escape from Ino.  In this myth his life is in danger and his sister falls into the sea as they try to escape.  Phrixus does manage to survive and sacrifices the ram to Zeus in thanks.  The Golden Fleece became the magical goal of the Hero Jason and the Argonauts who sought it.  The lesson here is perhaps that the difficulty or challenge that we currently face holds the promise of great adventure and opportunities for learning.  Also we can see that the journey is a long one and the small sheepish moments along the way fade into insignificance in the big scheme of things.

In Dame Fortune’s Wheel Tarot the Seven of Coins depicts a lady holding a lamb which Paul Huson explains is a sign of innocence.  Considering the idea of sheepishness, it seems it could often be as a result of that innocent wish to express oneself that we later feel regret.  In the moment we speak or write our thoughts there is nothing wrong with making declarations of whatever we are taken with.  It is in hindsight, with a little added wisdom, that the sheepishness creeps up on us.

In the Vandenborre Bacchus Tarot, as well as some other older decks of the same period, the card we now see almost universally as the Tower was often depicted as a shepherd with his sheep beneath a tree, often sheltering from a lightning bolt.  Traditionally it was suggested that the idea of God breaking open the doors of hell to liberate those trapped within was being depicted in this image.  In more modern times we look at the tower as that bolt from the blue, the rug being pulled from below us, so that we can re-build our lives more in line with our true self.  Either way it is a major change, and a liberation of sorts.  So, how does this connect to sheepishness…..well, seeing our world crumble before us, and sometimes also realising the mistakes we may have made to get ourselves into our current predicament, or the foolish things we may have done, can certainly lead to a degree of sheepishness.  Well, in my case anyway.

Finally, the Magical Forest Tarot has many sheep, and very cute ones at that.  Two in particular stand out to me on the Strength and Temperance cards.  I find this interesting because they are both virtues and perhaps virtues one should work towards to avoid future sheepishness (and by ‘one’ I really mean me).  Strength is obviously important because we need to firstly be confident and not worry if some of the things we say end up making us feel foolish.  We also need strength for those times when we have made a fool of ourselves and need to deal with the consequences.  Temperance is even more important as it highlights the necessity to be moderate, to think before we speak, to consider things before being certain.

So in this crazy little journey that started off as a vague sense of sheepishness, my cute little woolly friends have helped show me not only the problem, but also some ways to avoid it.

And at the end of all this the message for me is that despite what our intentions with tarot are, it seems that it will take us where it wants us to be, rather than the other way around.  The beauty of working with tarot as a system is that there are so many paths leading off the main road, so many nooks and crannies to explore.  Sometimes if we just go where it takes us, we end up with realisations that we couldn’t have imagined.  And for me personally, I know if I ever see a sheep on a card when I’m doing a reading I’ll have many layers of meaning which I’ll now be able to draw on.

I’d also like to include here some of the other sheep I discovered on Tarot cards along the way:

 Bruegal Tarot 8 of Cups and Page of Swords

Golden Tarot 9 of Coins, Egorov Tarot 10 of Coins

 Lisa Hunt Fantastical Creatures 4 of Swords, Lisa Hunt Fairytale Hermit

  Magical Forest Judgement, Star and Lovers

  Osho Zen, Thoth
Minchiate, Alice in Wonderland

At some stage, when I find myself with more time, I'd like to reflect on how these additional Sheep might add to my little journey.  Ultimately though, I have enjoyed the process of just going with the flow and seeing where the imagery can take me and how it can shed light on a situation.  I guess this type of exercise is just another style of 'reading' the cards.