IV. The Emperor

To build, to celebrate, to become; these are the symbols of our lives.

Another hard one this week, made evident by the fact that this post is a week late. I’ll admit, the Emperor is not a card I feel much resonance with, for all my masculine energy and the personality traits that found in me and the card’s symbols.

Looking at this card, the main things that stick out to me are the carvings of animals behind him and the tree roots that bind him to the earth. There is a lineage to this man, to his nature. He is one of many in a long line.

The Emperor Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
The Emperor
Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

I suppose this is why the card does not resonate with me. I have never felt rooted in any one area of my life, my heritage, my being. Years ago, I remember my mother telling me as Sara Evans’ “Born to Fly” played on the radio, “This is your song.” It was an off-hand comment as we drove to my grandparents’ new home in New Mexico, but I can remember that moment so clearly, the desert and scrubland visible through the window as I listened to the words of the song:

I’ve been tellin’ my dreams to the scarecrow
‘Bout the places that I’d like to see.
I said, “Friend, do you think I’ll ever get there?”
Ah, but he just stands there smilin’ back at me.

…But how do you wait for heaven?
And who has that much time?
And how do you keep your feet on the ground,
When you know that you were born, you were born to fly?

…Yeah, ’cause I will soar away like the blackbird.
I will blow in the wind like a seed.
I will plant my heart in the garden of my dreams,
And I will grow up where I’ll wander wild and free.

-Excerpts from “Born to Fly” by Sara Evans

Over the years, I have examined my relationships with the elements. Air and Fire, the liminal elements have always resonated so strongly with me. I have spoken on my relationship with Water some previously, so I won’t continue with that just now. Earth, however, is something that I have always pursued and desired in my life. That sense of rootedness, I guess, that comes with its resonance. Something resembling an…identity, I guess. When you belong to many groups, you feel as though you belong to none. This is the root of many of my struggles and what often causes my frustrations and disappointments to get the better of me.

Applying this to my religious and spiritual perspectives, though, I can easily find connections. While the card itself might not resonate with me and my personality, I can find some allegories for my spiritual experiences. The draw I feel to revivalism, the renaissance of ancient cultures and their practices is easily seen in this card’s meaning. To create “order out of chaos” is difficult in this respect, but that is the goal of this project, this Tarot Journey.

III. The Empress

The Empress Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
The Empress
Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

As I spent the last week musing on this card, The Empress, I thought heavily on this meaning: experiencing the senses. While there are more than the basic five senses that we have been taught, I find myself regularly reflecting back on those themselves. They are engrained in my mind, and so I fall back on them when I think on sensual experience.

For many years, I kept my altars and shrines stripped down to the bare minimum. Icons, a candle or two, and incense. But when I began to peruse Kemeticism last year, I began to think more on the power of aestheticism, of experiencing visual pleasure through my altars and my worship.

We all do it, or at least most of us do. We’ll go through pages and pages of altar photos from our fellow PPRW communities and many regularly update the items on their shrines. As I rebuild my shrines and find dedicated spaces and items for my various gods, I wish to pursue more and more of this aesthetic aspect. Function and beauty, rather than simply function alone.

When I think on the times that I feel the most spiritual, they are firmly routed in the physical, in experience. As I take the elevator down to the first floor from work alone, I dance; I do the same on the drive home as I sing along with the radio, my body and my voice a gift to the gods. I take in beauty from the feeling of the breeze on my skin as I lay in bed in the early morning and in the last rays of sunlight staining the clouds red and orange and purple in the evening. These are the moments I feel most spiritual, the ones in which I am acting, doing, or taking the time to appreciate the world I live in.

This afternoon, I finished the last few pages of T. Thorn Coyle’s “Crafting a Daily Practice.” Her lesson plans are firmly routed in the physical and the body; doing instead of mulling. Action over thought is something I have found difficult in the past, as I am far more familiar and comfortable with my beliefs and my theories than their manifestation into practicum.

There has been a fire building in my belly, an ember now become a flame and soon to become a raging inferno if I do not tend to it soon. It builds on the regular, when I have clamped down on my desires to do and to act. Often, this relates to the creative process; fitting for this week’s inspiration, as creativity, nurturing, and fertility* are also associated with this card. It is when I become like the stagnant pond that the fire begins to burn more and more wild until I explode with frustration; this day I sense is soon to come.

So how do I push forward? By doing, by engaging myself. Small things at first, but then I must trust myself to fall harder into the pool that is my spirituality. I must, instead of talking, begin to walk.

II. The High Priestess

When I looked up the third card of the Majors in the Shadowscapes deck, I got really confused. I realized when looking at the webpage that I have never actually drawn this card in a reading in the several years I have had the deck. So, trying to figure out what to write for this week and mulling on the meaning of the card for myself and my path was difficult, to say the least.

02_TheHighPriestess
The High Priestess Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

There have been a lot of developments in the last week here at my place. I’ve come closer to finishing several of my shrines to my deities and things have come to pass that have allowed me to purchase books to continue my studies of my various deities and further develop my practice. I now have Persephone Unveiled, which coincidentally arrived today; Bearing Torches, a devotional anthology for Hekate; The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Faeries, a book I have actually used in some of my former college papers; Queen of the Sacred Way, another devotional, this one in honor of Persephone; and several Kindle books, including Hekate: Liminal Rites, Hekate: Her Sacred Fires, The Temple of Hekate, T. Thorn Coyle’s Crafting A Daily Practice, and A Druid’s Tale.

As I mentioned in my first Tarot-themed entry, I have been reading Coyle’s Evolutionary Witchcraft as well. Her writings, while focused on the Feri tradition, have inspired me to think more about some aspects of my path. These ideas I will get into in later entries, after I have finished the book. (I have also started working through her Crafting A Daily Practice, which I find a little less applicable, but I am not very far in the text just yet.)

All of these, however, have gotten me on the path towards the High Priestess. In the Shadowscapes Tarot, she is accompanied by the owl, a noted keeper of knowledge; that same bird bears a key in its claws, with which he shall unlock various mysteries. Until then, though, these mysteries remain elusive and unlearned, the same status that I currently find myself in. In her hand, too, she bears the pomegranate fruit, sliced open, its shocking red seeds born for all to see. Fallen, yellow leaves adorn her belt of twigs and grasses, signifying autumn, the season of change.

I haven’t talked much about my relationship with Persephone here, but a key aspect of it is that she has urged, in various ways, for me to pursue shadow work of various kinds, both mundane and magical. In the last year and a half, I have been in therapy to deal with the psychological issues I have struggled with for much of my life. I have also begun, slowly, to do my own psychological delving – or, possibly, traveling – in order to deal with my issues and problems. Facing my flaws has been a key theme of this year, and I have Persephone to thank for pushing me that way. (Though, quite frankly, The Morrigan threw me on the beginnings of this path years ago.)

This card, despite its lack of presence in the past, has struck me now that I sit here to write on my thoughts and developments associated with it. In a way, it encompasses exactly what I am attempting to do: better myself through self-education, improve my interactions with myself and those around me, develop a stronger spiritual practice, and to honor my gods the way they have honored me throughout my life. But, most significantly, it is change, as denoted through the autumn leaves hanging from the Priestess’s belt.

When I first began thinking of devoting specific online presences for my spiritual path, whatever it is, I struggled with a name for what I was doing. There is no name for the path that I follow; it simply is a wandering journey through a dark forest in many respects. But as I tried to figure out what, exactly, I was looking for, it started to become a little more clear.

Change has always occurred in my practice. Anyone who has known me for a while religiously or spiritually, or anyone who has followed the various blogs I have started and abandoned over the years can attest to this. I refuse to remain stagnant; I am a spiritual nomad, of a sort. I always want to grow and develop. Autumn is the strongest symbol of this for me, with its progression from the lush green of spring and summer to the cold and harsh depths of winter. It is the fiery time when the earth explodes with color and reminds us of the need to shake off the old to make way for the new; it is the time of winds that push us down paths we may not have normally come across. It is also my favorite time of year, the season during which I spend most of my time in contemplation of my spiritual life, a tradition I began years ago. But I am always seeking, always searching. This, in effect, harkens back to the change symbolism of autumn. I cannot ever be satisfied, and so I am always in pursuit of more, whatever it may be. What better way to describe this than with a hunt?

And, so, we get the Autumn Hunt, the name I have more or less begun to call my path, though this is the first time I have admitted it to others. Or, even, myself.