Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bitter Herbs - the Five of Swords

Easter has come and gone and my blog has been buried in the ground. Lent almost kills me. Every year I forget how hard it is, and every year it T-bones my life. When I used to be a bona fide practicing Christian there was a context for it. I could engage in the cleansing, penitential cycle of the season and come up fresh after the Easter vigil. So am I saying that I’m a survivor/refugee from the Christian church? I don’t think so. I think that the Lent cycle is inscribed in our culture, and I’m not sure that the Christian church is the original author of fasting and cleansing after a long winter. I have strenuously non-Christian friends who work every year with a spiritual coach and engage in what they call a ‘cleanse’. Cleansing what? How many people do you know who do ‘cleanses’ these days? The just went to California to do a new ‘cleanse’. They just read a book about a revolutionary ‘cleanse’. They’re heading off to a retreat to do a ‘cleanse’. How did they come to get so dirty in the first place?

During the Passover meal Jews eat bitter herbs. It’s become symbolic, but I’d think they go back a long time to a spring cleanse. Many animals eat certain plants in the spring to clear their bodies from built up toxins after a winter of careful (if any) metabolizing of food.

The forty days of fasting and the self-examination of Lent are, I think, a response to long confinement, short rations, sluggish metabolization, and claustrophobia. The Christian story takes it to a different level, and along comes John the Baptist saying “You must change your life; you must clean out your inner life to be ready for the New Thing.”

These images are old. They are stained glass windows we have made to look at the Sun. The light will always be conditioned by the window it comes through. And we can’t see the sun without a window, so there will always be a dynamic relationship between the window and the sun, but always the sun is the same one.

The Lent window says “Get ready for the Light. You’ve been living in the dark and you need to clean up inside and outside. When the Light comes you don’t want to be heavy with winter sludge. You’re going to do it anyway, so why not do it in a conscious way?”

For purification, you’d look for the Fives on the Tree of Life. The Five of Swords will certainly tear away illusions and mistakes and cricks in your energy – a bit of etheric Rolfing. The old five-petalled Rose is here, but you have to put your hand through the thorns to reach Her – she will accept no less. Like the Prince in the story you must get through the thorns to find the sleeping Princess.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Green blade rising - the Page of Pentacles

“Now the green blade rises
From the buried grain.
Love that in the darkness
Many days hath lain.

Love comes again,
That in the earth hath been
Love will come again
Like grass that springeth green.”

Medieval Easter carol.

This is the month of the Great Turning, as the earth one more time starts to lean its head into the sun. Once again we pass out of darkness (we of the northern hemisphere, that is).

The spring goddess Eostyr walks out again, and where her bare feet touch the snow snowdrops bloom, and where her hair brushes the trees as she dances green mists of buds begin.

It hurts, the spring. For many people spring, not winter, is the hardest time of the year. Dare we hope again? Can we stand the joy of the returning light when we know it’s not here for keeps? Easier maybe to stay furled in the seed-case and die in the earth than once again to reach up with all our fibres, all our hopes, into the light.

It’s also the time of year when the two great spiritual traditions that have formed our western culture hold hands (though they won’t always admit it). Easter and Passover are one and the same festival. Moses led the Jews out of darkness and slavery on the night of the Passover, when a lamb’s blood was used for protection. Jesus came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and died during the festival, and is often called the Lamb of God. These are one and the same thing, and their timing is calibrated by the Moon.

And behind them one can see the Great Dance. The Earth leans again towards the light, once again we come out of the dark, and the Moon tells us when to plant.

You might look for Eostyr in the Page of Pentacles, sometimes called the Rose of Isis. The Page of Pentacles is the endpoint of manifestation, the place where the cycle ends and earth ones again becomes fire. Just before it does, if you look with your magic eyes, you’ll see a rose, the Rose, growing in the garden of Persephone, half in the light, half in the dark.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Snooze Button? - Judgment

This blog has been fading into oblivion. Maybe that’s okay – maybe it needs to. It’s been interesting to write, and I’ve made a few discoveries about the Tarot as I’ve written it, but it’s been very external, very over there as I have written it – lots about the tarot and the weather, not that much about me. So, I ask myself, why should it be about me? What interest (or even perhaps business) is that of other people’s?

And then I think, well, imagine a no-reader blog. Suppose no one at all were reading this. What purpose would it have served? Is an artefact any use if no one uses it? Well, the Pharaohs certainly thought so, packing up all their worldly goods for the after-life. But that’s kind of different – they were sure they were providing themselves with essentials for somewhere down the road. Wherever I end up down the road, I’m not going to be taking my blog along, that’s for sure.

So I should what, tell you about my bursitis or my digestion? Is that what I mean by personal? Taking the question seriously I take a look. What is personal in this context?

The answer comes back – talk about Angels. I have personal relationships with Beings – it might be interesting to mention that.

Angels are an interesting topic. Many healing practitioners work with Angels. I was giving this little credence until I recently received a healing/reading from a very strong practitioner who told me that a specific Angel was waiting for me to call. I did so, and felt something very sharp and clear happen. I was fighting some kind of dark/depressive energy, and suddenly there was a light sabre right in the middle of it. Light sabres aren’t part of my personal mythology – I’m fairly confident that this wasn’t just me. Was it just her? Who can say in these cases?

The Tree of Life houses Angels. The major Angels as identified in the Kabala all have homes there. It is said that in the negative reflection of the Tree of Life their dark counterparts also have homes.

When the intellectuals of the Catholic Middle Ages were struggling to incorporate a wave of classical learning (the Crusaders opened the path for intellectual exchange with the Arab world, which had taken a strong interest in Greek and Roman literature and philosophy) they had to contend with the pagan gods. The Greeks said it was true, so they couldn’t argue with it. Their creative response was to say that yes indeed all these beings existed – they were fallen angels – they fell when Satan did and became the gods of the ancient world.

An interesting implication of this is that they had actual reason to believe in these entities. This is a bit of a diversion, though, and I think I’ll save pagan gods till next time – it should help me keep the blog going.

Back to Angels. If you call, they come. This is always true. They may not do exactly what you ask them to – they have their own agendas for sure, but call, and they will come. They also come of their own accord.

Gabriel is the Divine Messenger. His mission is always freedom and change. In the Tarot he inhabits the twenty-first Path, the Path of Judgment, that calls us out of the sleep of matter and turns on the light. Metaphorically, he calls up the dead on the last day. Christians understand him as having told Mary of the coming of Jesus. Moslems understand him as having dictated the Koran to Mohammed. Call on Gabriel for absolute change, If you dare. In the Tarot work with the card called Judgment and it can be a door to knock on.

Freedom is frightening and had big implications. The coffin is a warm and snug place and sleep is seductive. Most of us (I include myself here) would like just to quietly snooze into death. There may be uneasy dreams, but let’s keep them as dreams. The utter change that Gabriel can bring – maybe not right now. But still, oh we ache for it. To wake up into the blinding brilliance that makes the manifest disappear. To really be free of the long aching sleep, to get up and stretch out our real bodies and spread our wings. Yes? No?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ashes - the Hermit

The air is very bright – the sun is like a golden trumpet blast. The Teacher rides into the cheering voices, into the blazing light, into the jaws of death, and we know that victory is always only apparent, that Incarnation and Death are one and the same, that the way In is the way Out.

We celebrate Incarnation, we celebrate the coming of the Teacher, and throw palm leaves before his feet to honour him. We face him and see the Light. He faces us and sees crucifixion over our shoulders. Always the Bridegroom arrives, and gives his flesh like bread so that we may live. This is as old as humanity.

Do we dissolve before his eyes like ghosts, our cheers as thin and eerie as the cries of bats as he rides to his death? Shall we follow him? And if we do, will he turn out another Pied Piper of Hamelin, to lead us down into the dark? Yes, no doubt, but he won’t stop there, he’ll lead us through, and out the other side.

The joy of Palm Sunday leads to Good Friday. Good Friday leads to Easter Sunday, and that leads back to Ash Wednesday.

For centuries people have taken the palm leaves they brought home on Palm Sunday and kept them until this day, when they burn them and draw a cross on their foreheads with the ashes. The coin has two sides, Life and Death. As the old song reminds us “You can’t have one, You can’t have none, You can’t have one without the other.”

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Living Window

It’s a long dark winter in these mountains. Black, white and grey, greenblack, blue grey, light held in the snow and the clouds, not much left over. Our lives are shaped and conditioned by light or by its a absence.

I recall the church I used to attend in Montreal forty years ago. Cold and dark indeed, and a winter that held its grip well into April. Even on the dark days the stained-glass windows were full of light. The rich blues and reds would take what light there was and turn it into warmth, and when the winter sun did come out the windows would explode with coloured fire.

Light is interesting that way. You can’t see it at all until it comes into relationship with something, and when it does, as far instance with stained glass, it is held and defined by that relationship. It’s maybe not a big stretch to think about the Divine, the Light Itself, in the same way. One Light, lots of windows. No window, no Light. When the Light hits the window, the window becomes alive. We build the windows ourselves, either individually or as a culture – and it seems pretty important to remember that when the window takes on a life of its own. The many different kinds of Jesus windows, Buddha windows, Mohammed windows, Krishna windows, are alive.

The Tarot itself can be seen this way, as a set of seventy-eight stained glass windows, each coming to life when it`s pointed at the Light. The card that may speak most clearly about this is the Magician.

The Magician is the first Form. When the raw energy arcs into the Manifest it can leap into Action (the Fool) or Form (the Magician). The Magician has access to raw undefined Light. As light holds all the colours of the spectrum, so Light holds all the Potentiality of Form. Think Big Bang. The first supercharged superheated unimaginable particle which held the whole universe in itself. The Magician says `Build it and They will come. ``

The Fool leaps and the Magician dances. You can`t hear the music till you watch him dance.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jan 16 - ice between the worlds

We don’t see much blue sky in the winter here. Today it’s clear and cold and the mountains are sharply defined. In the sun the snow is brilliant, blinding, and in the shade its a cold mathematical blue. It’s reminding me of the vivid, crystalline Ontario winters of my childhood. I have always loved the cold, and as I riffle the deck of childhood memories I see that my first strong apprehensions of the absolute beauty of the natural world always came around winter. I remember (probably I was nine) snow flashing like tiny sparks in the moonlight, the snow piled several feet deep, and the tiny cold flakes each falling like white sparks. I remember an icy field at sunset, like being inside an amethyst.
My walk to school passed beside a pond, and I remember one winter when there was a hard early freeze. I tested the ice and found it would take my weight. On my hands and knees, cold seeping through the knees of my lined (we wore blue jeans with what I suppose must have been flannelette linings – I haven’t seen those for years – they were horrible when they were wet) jeans, I looked into another world. The boundary between the two realities, water world and air world, was suddenly at the same time stunningly defined, and invisible. It was like looking through a window. The barrier between the two worlds was at the same time utterly impenetrable, and totally transparent.
The Six of Swords stands for that kind of separation. Older classical decks suggest exile and separation. It has been called the Lord of Science, and it stands for distance. Sometimes to see a thing in its articulation we have to stand away. The more we see it, the more we are disengaged. The Hermit’s departure point is the six, and while he may appear to return from his journey, it will not be as it was, and he will not re-engage. Working on the ground it says get your ego-attachment out of the way. As long as you’re in the picture you can’t see it. The hard thing, the thing that stops, is that you know that once you do this, it’s a one-way trip. When you swim in the water the water moves around you, and the things that live in it are all dealing with your passage, your presence, the displacement created by your mass and your movement. When ice separates you the water world no longer knows you and it goes on its way as if you were not there. At its hardest the six of swords can be a lonely impotent ghost – the result of refusing the separation in your life. At its best it brings true objectivity and a passionate clarit

Friday, January 4, 2008

Seven of Cups - the Elf-King's Daughters

It’s cello weather. The sky is white and very low, the mountains lost in cloud. The river is black and the snow on the black trees is dripping. It’s an almost monochrome world, perhaps like living inside a liquid pearl. The immediate response is light – lamps, stove, fireplace. The holidays are over, the light is slowly but perceptibly creeping back, the Christmas decorations are put away, along with the presents, and life feels clean and empty, maybe a little sad.

The new year feels a bit like a new and empty book, a gift from someone we feel we ought to love but aren’t sure we do. Writing in the book feels what, feels fake somehow, like walking away from the truth. Blank pages in an empty book may be more truthful than anything we can say or live – the cool empty hiss of the white page, like white noise, unlived life. The latent may always be more truthful than the manifest, no?

This is the world of the seven of cups, everything melting into everything else. The truest path right now is the one we don’t see. Moving, almost featureless, the outer world is best left to its own devices – don’t grab, don’t define, don’t strain your eyes looking into the moving grey mist. Come home and light the lamps. The Elf King’s daughters are dancing out there in the mist; you may hear their voices, but it’s generally best not to try and catch them.

If you stay home the seven of cups will make your hearth bright, your fire steady. The seven of cups, like water itself, is a great transmitter of sound. And if you release into music right now you may find something you hadn’t realized you were looking for.