Happy solstice, everyone! It’s time for another Tarot Blog Hop! To remind you how these work: there are links at the top and bottom of this post that you can use to hop through to other blogs on this topic. There’s also a link to the master list of all the blogs in the hop.
This time we did the hop a little differently, starting our writing yesterday and then having 24 hours to finish our reflections and revise. Which I think is a very nice addition to our process–and something we should all do whether we’re writing or just forming our own views in our heads. It’s like we built a tiny Mercury retrograde into our schedules! Anyway, this time our topic is the Wheel–and this time of the year, which is so often called “the most wonderful time of the year.” Is it, though?
I have strong opinions about this, so rather than going straight to the tarot, I’m first going to introduce you to a practice I have with my clients, for the sake of ethics and transparency: If someone asks me a question about which I already have strong opinions or past experience or some obvious reason to be biased, I tell them my views on the question, the views that arise immediately not from my intuition but from my brain, before pulling any cards. That way they can know my bias up front, and keep my bias in mind in hearing my interpretation of cards, and also: Dumping my opinions at the beginning helps me to set them aside in order to try to be more objective in reading on the topic at hand. So I think it’s good methodology as well as being an attempt at transparency. (And sometimes I do pull cards that flagrantly disagree with my initial opinion.)
Let’s also take a moment to defluff the preceding paragraph. This is not a practice that I put in place for marketing purposes. Nor is it me typically overthinking everything (I mean that’s a given at any time, but…). It’s a practice I originally put in place when someone asked me: “I drank too much last night and I woke up at my date’s home and I don’t know if we had sex or not.” To me that’s a red flag that this person could have been date-raped, but I don’t want them thinking the cards said that or that my intuition said that when it’s really my brain that is saying that. (Am I straying off topic? Nope, because that’s a thing that still happens to people even at this “wonderful” time of the year. Also it’s never a bad time to remind us that we have brains as well as hearts and can use reason as well as intuition.)
The topic of this time of the year is similar. As a topic it immediately triggers red flags for me–not the raising of the topic, which is reasonable enough, but the whole culture around this topic. So I’m going to share my pre-card-pulling biases with you:
First, it’s not the most wonderful time of the year. That is obviously October, when the weather cools off and the air gets dryer (at least here in Wisconsin), we are able to breathe again, and Halloween occurs (and also my birthday, ahem, which ushers in Scorpio season).
It’s also not the most wonderful time this year, for reasons that are obvious if you pay any attention to the news.
But, more importantly, and finally getting to my actual point: It’s also not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone, which is true for every single day of the year, right? Every single day of the year people in the world, in many places, are experiencing tragedy, or depression, or sheer overwhelm. One of my classmates pointed out a few weeks ago that the Christmas season can be especially difficult for people who have experienced pregnancy loss or the loss of a child–for example. Moreover, this is also our capitalist season of spending, and if spending is hard because your budget is tight or nonexistent, this can also be a time of complicated feelings. Also, some people feel conflicted about holiday spending because hey, it’s one of the things that is destroying the Earth (oh sorry, is it a downer for me to mention that?). Yes, there are ways to respond to those feelings and address those concerns but the feelings are real. People have many reasons not to necessarily feel wonderful right now. And their feelings are valid, and it’s okay if they don’t feel that wonderful about this time of the year.
There are also those of us (waves hand) who just plain also feel contrary about being told what to feel all the time. Fuck off with that.
Gee, if only we had some ways to celebrate that were NOT: Let’s bully everyone around us into pretending to be happy.
Gee, if only we would stop privileging happiness as the only acceptable emotion in fucking general.
It is actually okay, at any time, not to be happy. It is also okay to be happy. It is okay to be angry. It is okay to be depressed. It is okay to be grieving. It is okay to feel content and peaceful. It is okay to not even know what you currently feel. It is okay to swing back and forth between all of these states and other feelings that I have not thought to mention. All of these things are okay on this day, on whatever holidays you celebrate, at any time.
I, Bonnie, personally give you permission to feel what you feel or not feel what you don’t feel, at any time. Your feelings are valid. If they weren’t valid, you wouldn’t be feeling them.
Don’t mistake my permission to feel your feelings as permission to do your actions. Those are two different matters.
Yes, we have unjustified feelings, we have unjustified anger a lot of the time, especially, at people who don’t deserve it, but, our anger has its own roots that are complicated and authentic. Just because we may not have described our feelings with accuracy and precision, just because we have named them as directed at a person or cause or issue that is not the true person or cause or issue that caused our feeling to arise, does not change the fact that our being human and having human feelings EVEN WHEN THOSE FEELINGS ARE BASED ON ERROR AS THEY OFTEN ARE, is valid.
Okay. All that said, let’s talk about the Wheel, and this time of the year. And let’s see if we can rescue the world “wonderful” from the emotion bullies.
Wonder comes from a word that means, “to be astonished.”
In the class I just took on Literature of Ancient Israel, our professor noted that the Bible tends not to refer to miracles, but rather to signs and wonders. And he recommended that we, in our practices of being there for others, avoid using the word miracle in favor of the word wonder.
Is this the most astonishing time of the year?
Does this time of the year fill us with wonder?
I like considering the word wonderful from this perspective much better than thinking of it as meaning happy or the best.
Why? Because it puts us in a position of operating from a place of curiosity rather than authoritatively telling people what to feel, and because the turning of the Wheel is bound to fill us with wonder. The turning of the Wheel is the passage of time. If that doesn’t fill you with wonder, I don’t know what will. A baby, with nothing more than a few turnings of the Wheel, suddenly starts walking and talking. That truly is a wonder. Someone is alive at one point, and then a few turnings of the Wheel later, they are dead. That is also a wonder, though a sadder one. Both leave us asking: What happened here? How is this possible?
A wonder doesn’t have to be a big deal thing like birth or death. I experienced a wonder on Sunday, when my car broke down in Chicago. I wondered how my battery and alternator and serpentine belt could all die when I had just replaced them a year ago. I had maintained the car. I tried to mitigate the risk that it would break down. And it did anyway! And, inconveniently, more than 80 miles from home! I wondered about that. And I asked my tarot and Lenormand cards on my phone: What! Does! This! Mean! And they answered, It’s a surprise! (Lenormand: the Bouquet, tarot: Page of Cups.) The tarot: You need to know that this is about the Chariot (looking back now, I also see that my card for the day on Sunday was the Chariot–which I thought at the time meant I was going to drive to Chicago and back. Ha ha! Partly right….) Tarot: You’re crossed by the Seven of Swords (from the Deviant Moon’s LWB: “The rope, which binds the blades, is frayed and will soon break”). In addition to the “it’s a surprise” messages, which I drew multiple times, the Lenormand kept telling me Lilies, which I tend to see as innocence (this was not your fault–because I kept wondering if the electrical system failed because I don’t drive the car enough), but which I also notice, in the LWB, are associated with staying calm while something takes awhile (much like this blog post is taking awhile, sorry, readers!). I also had cards popping up about connection with others, meeting together, and talking, which makes perfect sense given that my ex-husband rescued us and we spent an unexpected day with him. Yet I have this feeling of resistance: I just want to go home! This wasn’t on the schedule!!! Well, apparently it was. And I wonder about that, at this wonderful time of the year. Are you wondering things too, right now?
Anyway, enough of my rambling: Let’s ask the cards: Why is this time of the year full of wonder?
I decided to ask several decks and divinatory tools:
From the Wild Unknown Archetypes:
Why is this time of the year full of wonder? The Father. My first thought was, a gendered card in this spot, really? And my second thought was, is this a reference to the Christian God the Father, and to Christmas? There’s a lot here to consider. And I’m not going to consider it adequately here; I don’t have space, but please feel free to further this discussion in the comments. Kim Krans writes in the LWB, “The father is often absent,” and that’s a really interesting take on this time of the year. Most of our ancestors are absent, having already died. Fathers are not obvious–their role in gestation can be rather invisible by the time a child is born. Yet an invisible presence is not nonexistent. (Fathers everywhere reading this are looking at themselves and saying, “I am NOT invisible! I am HERE being a PARENT RIGHT NOW!” True. Except when it isn’t.) As well, the Father, metaphorically and symbolically speaking, is part of the Cause, and the Cause of anything that occurs is invisible. We try to reason it out, but we may or may not truly understand, and also, physics is finding that at the quantum level, causation may not exist. (Look it up and try to make sense of that: I’m not a physicist and can’t explain this.) Yet, maybe, causation, a Causer, a causative Agent, while invisibly “not existing,” still matters to us. We could also ask, does “existence” take the form of matter? Or does the Father, not visibly per se, not existently per se, not causatively per se, nevertheless provide, offer, allow supportive conditions for what then arises? What if, as a verb, to create implies absence? What if I allow you to be here by not extending myself to take up all the space?
What is the actual wonder? The Temple. Krans says, “…The Temple is a universal and omnipresent energy, accessible in the highest and lowest, richest and poorest of places.” This is, indeed, what spiritual takes on this time of the year constantly try to tell us–the Gift is not what we buy with money. Something else is going on that has to do with the sanctity of the very texture of our experience in this world and this life. The darkest time of the year, when we are actually a little more likely to take a little time for reflection and are least distracted by all the shiny things, is a good time to remind us of this. Moreover, a Temple is a space that we form, as a community or individually, by declaring it, on our own authority, to be a sacred space. Do we find or create more sacred spaces, together and individually, at this time of the year? Do we consecrate our existing sacred spaces more? If we are in prison, or a hospital, or a cemetery, right now, it’s worth considering that we can sanctify a space. It was always already sacred ground, actually, to begin with. If you are feeling a need for sacred ground (maybe because things are less wonderful than you would like), consider that you’re already there. And if you can’t see that it’s sacred because of too much light, don’t worry, the shadows will fall, and then you’ll be able to see without the Sun (or the flickering fluorescent light) in your eyes.
How does the wonder occur? 2 cards: The Shadow, and The Forest. I particularly appreciate the Shadow here, because this is the shortest day of the year, when we have the most shadows. In the LWB, Krans quotes James Hillman: “In the shadow of the gods are the very gods themselves.” I’ve also written on this card, though I don’t recall where this came from: “What we deny also watches.” Especially in the Forest! If one has just finished writing a paper on Amos 3:3-8, one might quote in this regard, “Does the lion roar in the jungle/if no prey has been found?” Are we aligning ourselves with our integrity? This is the time of year when we typically ask ourselves this (even though we should always be asking). The divine notices, at any time, but this is the time of year when we ourselves are more likely to take a harder look. Are we “selling the poor for a pair of sandals”? (Amos 2:6) Now is the time to redress that particular lack of integrity, recalling that the lions, who have been watching, are not interested in your lip service but in your appropriate actions:
I hate and despise your feasts,
I take no pleasure in your solemn festivals….
Let me have no more of the din of your chanting,
no more of your strumming on harps.
But let justice flow like water,
and integrity like an unfailing stream.Amos 5:21-24
Now is the time to ask ourselves why justice isn’t flowing like water and why integrity is not flowing like an unfailing stream. Every day and every time is the day and time to ask this! Every part of the Wheel cares about this! But, if you demand a “this time of the year” connection for that, ask yourself why the so-called Son of God had to be born in a barn. Ask yourself why we don’t put a roof over everyone’s head. Because yes, we could. Chicago’s Loop, a center of economic power in our nation, at this very moment, because I saw them a couple of days ago, has people living in tents under bridges. Christians: I say to you, and you had BETTER hear me: If Jesus were born today, he’d probably be born in one of those tents.
From the I Ching (using Benebell Wen’s translation):
37. Family; interdependence. This is the clan, the family: interdependence. The leading clan that gives light to others will shine with the radiance of the sun. Leading from behind; leading by setting the example. The nation must come together like a family. When there is interdependence, then there will be great success. The parent establishes firm rules for the child to follow, so that the child can become a contributing member of society. Leave no housekeeping unattended. Attention to detail will bring success. Govern the clan with love, not with fear. The king must be like a loving father.
I hardly dare to comment on the I Ching. It has its own opinions. But I will say that I’ve found it to always, always, always, be right. And… Oh, all right, I am going to comment. Don’t you dare fucking read this as some fluffy content-free statement that “oh, yes, families are nice, and so important at this time of the year.” This is a call to “come together” like John Lennon’s song. And I don’t see one fucking word about freedom here, though of course I am a fan of freedom, but it’s not the remedy for what’s ailing us right now. The remedy for what’s ailing us is responsibility. Collective responsibility. Act like a grown-up and act like you care about the people around you.
A Biblical interlude
Since I’ve been reading the prophets, I’m going to quote them to you:
Sow integrity for yourselves,
reap a harvest of kindness….Hosea 10:12
Kindness! Integrity! Tell the the truth and be kind! How many different ways does this have to be said to humanity?
…everyone tries to catch his brother in their father’s house,
to say “you have a cloak, so you be leader…”Isaiah 3:6
Some things we can blame our leaders for. Sure. But we are also called to lead in daily life.
“By what right do you crush my people
and grind the faces of the poor?”Isaiah 3:15
I’ll just wait for an answer to this.
…are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?Isaiah 7:13
Yes, Sharp Eyes, this IS right before Isaiah 7:14-16, “…the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel.” Do you see how Isaiah is speaking about this child IN THE CONTEXT OF CALLING PEOPLE OUT FOR THEIR INJUSTICES? This isn’t a quote about your pretty capitalist holiday; it’s a quote about ceasing to do evil, starting to do good, and being just. Finally:
What is good has been explained to you, man;
this is what YHWH asks of you:
only this, to act justly,
to love tenderly
and to walk humbly with your God.Micah 6:8
From Colette Baron-Reid’s Oracle of the Enchanted Map: Details, details
Yes, these details matter. I know that none of what I’m saying sounds festive; well, don’t go to parties, then! Note that this card picks up the reference to details in the I Ching and that paying attention to details first entails actually paying attention, period.
Clarity is in the details.
It’s in the overthinking.
Or at least the thinking…how can I speak of overthinking when we usually don’t think, period?
All right. Last but not least, from the Wild Unknown Tarot:
Why is this a time of wonders? The Hierophant. Our traditions and our institutions, particularly the church, have declared it to be (sometimes the tarot can be such a Capricorn!). But also: This is a time when we can learn something, should we choose to listen to what the divine has to say rather than simply shouting what we have to say at our gods. Why is tarot, why are oracle cards, why are all the various forms of divination marginalized in our society, while prayer is held up and praised? Because we like to hear ourselves talk better than we like to hear the voice of the divine, apparently. Do better. Ooh, did someone say that Omen Days are coming up? And that this would be a great time to listen for the voice of the divine? (Thanks, Briana Saussy, for reminding us every year about these 12 days of Christmas!)
What is the wonder? Eight of Wands and Six of Cups, the lightning strike to the family and to our memory of our collective past. One thing that happens is that we suddenly do remember the poor and the needy and the forgotten and the margins and send donations to mollify our consciences. We would do better to do all of this, all of the time, and not to leave the poor dependent on occasional rememberings but to provide for all in a structural way.
Because the true wonder of this time of the year, the truly astonishing thing, is that the divine shows up and we’re not interested.
How? The Tower. Yes, The Tower! The divine, however, does know how to get your attention. And if that doesn’t terrify you, it probably should. I leave the meaning of that to your contemplations but will further note that the Tower brings the Star and the Star is RATHER relevant to this time of year, and I also note that, with birth and babies being a topic of the season for some, babies are an absolute Tower of Towerness. Look, I don’t mean to insult babies as a class, but this is truth.
Peeking under the deck to see what’s hidden in all this (a technique I learned in Camelia Elias’ playing cards class), what do I find but the Father of Swords? Depicted here as an owl who sees very well at night, who can fly basically entirely in silence. Carrying a rainbow-colored sword, by the way. Don’t try to start a war under cover of night. The Father of Swords (in the form of the divine, this is not meant as a monotheistic comment) sees you AND the malevolence you’re thinking of. If you start a war with the divine, the divine will win. How about if you listen to the I Ching and come together as a family, instead? Protect, don’t infect. Listen, don’t incite mayhem. Heal with compassion, don’t hurt with hate. Make this a wonderful time of the year. I dare you.