January Reflections on Voice

imageWhen I did my oracle reading for the year of 2016, the card that I drew for January was “voice,” the card showing a wolf howling with what looks like a night sky behind them, stained with deep blues, rich dark purples, and bleeding pinks, dotted with stars.

I won’t lie—this card confused the hell out of me. I had no idea what to expect in January.

About a week ago, after having wracked my brain for what this card could be trying to tell me, I finally decided to draw a new reading for clarification. With the blizzard that hit the East Coast this past weekend, I ended up working from home Monday and Tuesday since we were still pretty snowed in. Sitting at my desk, I pulled out my Earthbound Oracle, and I began to do a reading.

 

Resistance, Sleep, Cycle.

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The cards that showed up were easy enough to read in light of their overtone card, voice. Knowing when to speak up and when to hold my tongue. But why? What could I possibly need to do or realize with this? And so I felt no more clarification than I had when I first pulled the deck out again to read the cards.

And then I remember a reading a friend of mine did for me earlier this month. They were offering free Tarot readings on tumblr, and while I typically don’t request readings from others, I couldn’t resist. I knew that this year was going to be a rough one, tumultuous in terms of emotional rending and healing, mental chaos, and a lot of changes going on. But when they gave me the results of my question (What should the focus be for my shadow work this month?), the cards they sent back and the interpretation they gave hit me like a sack of bricks. I knew what I needed to do.

But gods damn, did I not want to do it.

See, the cards that Delffin sent back gave a general message of me confronting someone that has had a lot of control over my life, someone I had recently done a small battle with and that I was feeling drawn away from but I needed to fix the bridge between us.

And there was only one person who fit that bill: my mother.

I won’t go into details, because it’s highly personal and I don’t want people to think I’m dragging my own mother through the dirt. The truth is, we are very different people, and we have both had a great deal of trouble coming to terms with that. I am the eldest child, my parents’ first born, so it’s been tough for both of us. I love my mother, but like most of the people we love, she can be extremely frustrating. I had not spoken with her since before Christmas, and my maternal grandmother had reached out the previous week because she knew something was wrong but she did not know what and she wanted to know what was going on. I gave my side of the story, and we talked, but this was another sign of the universe bringing this once more to my attention.

And so after the clarification reading, with all of this in mind, I asked the cards how I should approach my mother.

Balance, Home, Self.

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Well, shit.

The Earthbound Oracle really does not pull any punches. I get nothing but pure honesty from these cards, and it’s always been highly specific about its answers to my questions. These cards are quite easy to interpret: finding a balance between my roots, my home, my mother, and that which makes me myself.

That is hard.

But the Universe wasn’t quite done sending me the message. My aunt, mother’s sister, and I had been talking of late, and after speaking with my grandmother, I had vented to her about my stress over the situation. She and I ended up Skyping later that day and talking about it some more, and she gave me some advice on how to approach my mother.

But I wasn’t ready. I put it off and put it off, and I didn’t want to do it.

I really did not want to do it.

But today, I did it. I sent my mother an email, very brief, and reached out.

And that’s the end of that, for now.

Shadow work is a real bitch.

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i. River

i. River
“i. River” by Kaye MacArthur

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail :
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.

-Excerpt from “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Rivers have always been inherently powerful to me, radiating a sense of peace, will, and mysticism. They have always been innately important to me, and so when it came time to think about my path and the symbols that marked it, rivers were among the top of the list.

O sisters let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O sisters let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

-“Down to the River to Pray,” Alison Krauss

The river a place of beginnings and endings. It is a source of life, but can also take life away. Rivers—and rain, too—are common symbols for rebirth or baptismal experiences. The sense of being reborn, of going into the river and coming out as new, refreshed, and different. One of the first spiritual experiences I have had was watching O Brother, Where Art Thou? and watching the scenes of the sirens at the river and falls, and the scene at the river of the Baptists. Even with the overtly Christian themes, especially of the latter scene, it is still a spiritual (and even Pagan) scene to me, not least because the movie is a modern interpretation of The Odyssey.

The scene of the sirens, too, reminds me of the variety of lore and folktales surrounding rivers and the creatures and beings and spirits that live in and around them. The naiads of Greece especially come to mind, spirits of the waters in a specific area. They are, in a sense, also land spirits, but inherently river-like to their cores. You find more rivers in Greek myths with the rivers of Hades; some are also found in the myths of Persephone, something I only learned recently, despite having associated her with rivers (and commonly the Ophelia archetype) for about a year before learning this.

In literature, rivers are typically viewed as a liminal place, a between place. Unsurprising since rivers are inherently paradoxical: they are both water and land; both life bringer and death dealer; both always the same and never the same. As the saying goes, one can never step in the same river twice. And that’s true—for one can never have the same circumstances occur exactly the same way a second time. The same water is not there, the same bits of the land are not there, and you are not the same the second time. And yet, we still know that it is the same river as before, even if circumstances have changed. Even if we have changed. The lane the waters have carved from land and rock is still the same—or not, as rivers themselves will move and reshape the land over time, or even in a great swell of rushing water blasting off the small precipice that had for years blocked its path.

As someone who follows a very liminal path, this imagery, these inherent paradoxes of such a common location in our histories, in our own lives, rivers are a very potent symbol for me. They have meaning and mysticism inherent to them that I cannot ignore. And as someone who is unable to reconcile themselves with their dislike for water, it is peculiar that rivers hold such a vehement meaning for me.

I have always found rivers to be calming. Whether playing in them as a child, watching their waters sparkle and dance over stone and rock, or listening to the sound of it rushing by, I can always be calmed by rivers. Some of the most potent memories of my life have rivers associated with them, and the two cities which are close to me, either in my heart or my home, are both known for their rivers—the Chicago River in Chicago, my hometown and birthplace; and the Potomac River here in Alexandria, VA, where I live now. Both rivers have had their place in my life, and when I miss Chicago, I can look at photos of the river and feel peacified. When I am stressed with work or personal things, I can walk down King Street to the docks and walk along the edge of the Potomac, staring across its grey waters to Maryland or Washington, D.C., beyond.

The mysticism of rivers, too, is something I cannot ignore. It calls to something within me, my predilection for magic and spirituality. These feelings came rearing up again today as I listened to a podcast recently recommended to me by my friend Sionnan: Story Archaeology.

In the first episode, Chris Thompson and Isolde Carmody discuss the lore of the River Sinann and its creation by its namesake, an accomplished woman named Sinann who desired inspiration. I won’t go into the story in detail, because Chris and Isolde do a wonderful discussion and breakdown of the story and its variants that should not be missed, especially if you have an interest in Irish mythology.

But as I listened to this episode, they were discussing the liminal places that one finds in mythology, and the river Sinann itself comes from a place beneath the waves, in the west, beneath the sea. They discuss the idea that, in myths, the protagonist must often “…find the impossible place… the place where poetry is found…is between the water and the dry land.  It’s in the place between.” These words hit me quite squarely, and I found myself musing on that place, that liminal space where poetry is found, throughout the day.

There is a saying that when you are called upon to serve the spirits or the gods, you emerge either as a spirit worker (or shaman, but that word has many other connotations that lead it to be more trouble than it’s worth), a poet, or mad. Now, I’ve been mad, and I’ve written a great deal of poetry (none of which is really fit for public consumption, for various reasons, at least not yet), and I’ve done spirit work or witchcraft time and again. And having experienced these three states, though rarely if ever at the same time, I can look back and see that they each have a state of otherness to them, a feeling of being outside one’s self and trying to describe the experiences to those not involved. Often, when discussing spirit work or witchcraft, you can tend to “wax poetic,” and I do the same whenever I talk about my time of madness and intense depression. This is, for me at least, because it is impossible to apply physical ideas to an abstract concept such as these without using metaphor. And so, for me, each of these concepts, each of these states, are inherently entwined, each pushing and pulling into one another to create something else. There is also a lot of romanticizing of the mad poet, or of someone mentally ill who is thus capable of seeing the world in a different, commonly viewed as beautiful, way. But that is a discussion for another time, and likely another blog entirely.

For me, rivers embody all these ideas. The power of the mystic, the beauty of the poet, and the unadulterated chaos that comes from madness. It is all three, and yet none of these, for a river is naught but a river itself.

But rivers are also endings, too. They can take life as quickly as they can save it, and though they are a source of food, travel, and purity, once tainted they can destroy an entire city or civilization. A river has a birth and a death, a coming and a going, where it springs from the earth then fades into the sea.

X. Wheel of Fortune

’round and ’round the wheel turns, never stopping; it is heartless, that way. Even if you beg, it will never pause for thee.

10_Wheel of Fortune
“Wheel of Fortune” by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

I love this card, with its vivid colors and the knotwork that makes the Wheel appear as if it is truly moving. The patterns that lace the Wheel and the background make the entire image vibrant.

Of all the cards in Tarot, the Wheel of Fortune is the easiest to read, in my opinion. It’s the most straightforward and can be read positively, negatively, or neutrally, depending on the context.

The Wheel of Fortune is destiny, fate, karma*, serendipity, wyrd—whatever you want to call it. It is the “natural order” of things, or the way the path snakes through the forest of your life.

It is also turning points, the pivot point of one’s destiny where you have the option to go one way or the other. In that sense, the Wheel of Fortune takes on the idea of a map, moreso than a straight line. There are paths drawn and important sites notated, but in the end, the way you go is your own.

This speaks to me a lot, especially at this phase on my path. I have wandered for quite a while, and now, through my wanderings, I have many more options available to me. More of the map explored, though no home to call my own. Yet, the Wheel, as every wheel and every circle have, has its apex, its center, where everything comes together. It is here that I wish to one day find, and it’s possible I will.I find this card to tie in nicely with the Hermit, its predecessor. The Hermit is always seeking, always searching. The Wheel, with its map, lays the path for the seeker, gives the signs where one may go: do you go left, or do you go right at the crossroads?

*Karma in the original meaning, not the Western interpretation of the word.

 

2016 Oracle Reading

I  have never done this in years past, but I have always wanted to. So, this year, I made sure to sit down shortly after waking up for the first time in 2016 and lay down cards for the year.

I opted for one card for each month of the year, then a three-card spread for the overall tone of 2016. I am not surprised by the overall message of the year, considering my goal for 2016 is to pursue shadow work more in-depth. With the three-card draw being “message, wealth, and arcana” (hidden meaning and wealth in things I learn, is my interpretation), color me unsurprised.

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There were a couple of months, though, that I requested clarification for: June and August. June, the card that appeared was “toxic,” which made me nervous. I drew three clarification cards and got “air, abundance…and death.” I have a general idea of what this will mean (basically that a lot of shit will hit the fan around this time, and I’ll be in for some tough rides), and the fact that this appears at the middle of the year is not lost on me.

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For August, I received “obfuscate,” which I had a feeling about. But when I drew the clarification cards and received “illuminate,” the exact opposite of this card (even in imagery), I was first baffled, then resigned. Travel and Perseverance complete the set, which do clarify the meaning for this month.

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Writing this and looking at the spread, I find myself confused by “Sol” for November, so I drew a few more clarification cards for it after gathering the cards into their respective piles: read and unread.

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Ah, there it is. I was wondering if water was going to show up at all.

This set is pretty self-explanatory now with the clarification cards, so I won’t delve into the meaning…yet. I’m planning to revisit each of these months once they end to reflect on how the cards summarized the events of that time.

Overall, it seems shadow work truly is the focus of 2016, which has been the message for me since October. More to come on that soon.