Free Weekly Reading: A message for 19 – 25 June, 2017

From the Tao Oracle: Hexagram 27, The Corners of the Mouth, Mountain over Lightening

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The focus for this week is self-care and nourishment. So many of us feel disconnected or at war with our bodies, we feel shame that they don’t look a certain way or can’t seem to do certain things. We can feel burdened by our own bodies, often treating them as cumbersome vessels we would rather not have to look after, or at worst, feel a sense of loathing for.

This week it is time to extend your body some tlc; it is not just a means to an end or a vehicle for some distinctive or separate matter we call ‘soul’, your spirit is infused into every cell of your being, and it needs some love.

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The Tao Oracle – Deck Interview and Mini Review

I recently received the stunning Tao Oracle by Ma Deva Padma, the same artist who illustrated the Osho Zen Tarot. I can’t reliably receive post where I live so people coming to visit is usually better than Christmas for me. My dad recently arrived with a modest stash of my purchases (two decks and two books) and my mum, the primary deck mule, bless her heart, will be arriving in a week. A number of these goodies I have been waiting for almost a year to receive, so I’m very exited….and of course it is lovely to catch up with close family too!

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Free Weekly Reading: A Message for May 14-21, 2017

The cat, like the cards, has no positional meaning 😉

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Summary: You see that sweet little bird? The fearless one about to take its first flight stepping off that branch? The one who knows no limits and has an infinite curiosity in the world? The one who some call ‘Fool’? This week asks you to wipe the slate clean and be that little bird once again. 

WOW. Three Majors present us with some big opportunities for learning and growth this week! After drawing the first 3 cards I decided to get a bit of clarification as to the direction of the overall message so I calculated the ‘quint’ card (the quintessential message of the whole spread, as represented by a Major Arcana card): Sun 19 + Fool 0 + High Priestess 2 = 21 The World) to tie it all together.

In this spread we can see the reconciliation of a number of opposites – the Sun to the High Priestess’ Moon and the first and last cards of the Major Arcana, the Fool and The World. We have masculine, feminine, active and receptive, light and dark, beginnings and endings, innocence and experience. But what does it all mean???

Well, for the past week I have been trying to get my head around the Buddhist concept of ‘emptiness’, it is paradoxically complex in its simplicity, and apparently widely misunderstood. An element* of this concept that I understand so far however, looks a lot like the Fool. Emptiness isn’t about feeling empty or being wholly passive and void of personality, it is about freeing ourselves from the “I” that limits the experiences we open ourselves up to, and releasing the personal investment we feel in every moment.

This idea of releasing the “I” got me thinking about all of the “I am”s involved in maintaining a fixed and predictable identity. I’m sure we’ve all said something along the lines of “I’m not brave enough to do that”, “I’m not smart enough”; “I’m not a numbers person”, “I’m not creative”, “I’m short tempered”, “I am not spontaneous”, and so on.

While it can be nice to feel that we have a solid sense of who we are, an accumulation of all of these “I”s that we feel define us can severely restrict what we feel capable of. Rather than our perceived identity acting as a guide in helping us to get on with our daily responsibilities, it can start to act as a prison, restricting us from thoughts, beliefs and activities that do not align with its rigid construct.

Furthermore, it can dictate our reactions to different situations and limit our capacity to grow. Why do we react in certain ways, to either pleasant or unpleasant experiences, and then regret our behaviour later, berating ourselves with “Why do I always do that?” Maybe it is because we have outgrown those ways but have defined ourselves by them for so long that we forget we can choose another way to be? It’s not easy to quit behaviour/s we have entrenched as inherent personality traits or quirks, but if there is something that we do or think that instills a feeling of disappointment, confinement or even loathing in ourselves, it’s time to stop making excuses of “that’s just the way I am”, and allow ourselves to be something different.

On either side and above the Fool we have the Sun, the High Priestess and the World in perfect balance. Here I see the Sun representing self-realisation – the conscious understanding of who we are in all of our dimensions and contradictions, and an acceptance that all of these dimensions are changeable. The Sun includes the “I” and “me”, but is not limited by the turgid structures of ego-centrism, it is the highest self that also seeks evolution, expansion and transcendence. In the High Priestess I see the mysteries of the sub-conscious and unconscious mind, a trust in our intuition, and the acceptance of our shadows, working in harmony and integrated with our consciousness. The World then can represent the sum of these disparate parts, healed as one in the emptiness of the Fool – the one who does not fight against duality and the ever changing nature of life, the Earth and its surrounding celestial bodies, but flows with them, free from fixed nature and without pride or limitations.

This week’s cards ask you to explore the emotional and psychological structures that place limitations on your ability to engage fully with life. What are some of the “I am”s that restrict you? Imagine yourself without them, imagine all of the things that deep down you want to do, and would feel free to do, if you could just break those bonds. Imagine the freedom of  seeing you identity as tendencies, rather than absolutes. Finally, observe the natural cycles around you and within you – are you flowing with them, or fighting against them? Seek balance and harmony and understand that any dualities you feel within yourself can be reconciled if you release your pre-conceived notions and expectations of who you are – ‘You’ are nothing, you are empty, you are the Fool and you are everything.

*I am still in the very beginning stages of my Buddhist studies, so this is in no way an exhaustive look at ’emptiness’. Its meaning is far reaching and this write up only touches upon one of its simplest, most personal aspects within the context of this spread.

Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans, 1st Ed. Now published by HarperElixir.

Why Six Swords? My Spiritual Transition …a Work in Progress

This blog has been up and running for just over a month now, so I thought it was high time for a little explanation as to my choice of Six Swords as my divination moniker and to share a bit (actually quite a bit) about my spiritual path, as the two are very much interconnected.

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This card is the calm after the storm of the fives, the clearing away of tension, static and confusion. It is a time of sadness, but also release, relief and healing. It isn’t the moment of change or transition itself, it is the moment just after we decide to instigate change. It is the realisation that in order to search for truth, we need to let go of what we think we already know, and be brave enough to sail to unknown shores.

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One of my favourite descriptions of the Six of Swords comes from my wouldn’t-be-without Crowley Tarot Handbook to the Cards by Akron and Banzhaf. In it, they say: “[The swords’] tips touch a red rose in the middle of the heart that is the centre of the golden rosy cross made of six squares: symbolic of harmony and allegoric for the endeavour to win inner insights through external observations. This external striving for the inner truth corresponds to the drive for freedom inherent to everything intellectual: the longing for liberation through the knowledge of the inner laws of nature. The Six of Swords embodies the scientific endeavour that has retained respect for the mysteries of life.” In a shadow aspect they speak of this card as representing “mistrust, scepticism, prejudices (for example, rejection of spirituality)”.

This last part, the rejection of spirituality, speaks so very strongly to me as someone who has spent the last year or so gradually moving away from staunch atheism to a more gentle agnosticism. When I first acknowledged my own need for spiritual fulfilment, I thought that choosing my path would be as simple as picking a pantheon I liked and going with it. Because of my own ancestry I thought it would lie with Norse or Celtic paganism. I’ve always enjoyed their mythology and symbolism, but they never really spoke to me on a deeper spiritual level outside of their divination systems of Runes and tree wisdom/Ogham.

What I only recently gleaned was an understanding that you don’t really choose your path, it chooses you, it likely already has chosen you; you just have to still the mind, release expectations and listen, using all of your faculties to try and decipher the message. Initially very surprisingly to me, I feel myself called towards Buddhism, with a particular focus on meditative and devotional work with the female bodhisattvas Guan Shi Yin and the 21 Taras, in addition to Gautama Buddha. I’ve always had a deep love and fascination with Buddhist cultures and practices, and had the great privilege of spending a year travelling around Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in my early twenties. Despite my reverence, I always saw the concepts of Buddhism much like its temples – something I visit, but don’t call home.

Now that I know my call down this path is genuine rather than self-constructed, I feel rather foolish…because it was there all along! The hours upon hours I spent looking at the Buddhist artefacts my father had collected on his own travels around Asia; the incredible pull I felt to travel some of the region myself; just how far off of every beaten track I would go to explore the temples; the time – seemingly out of nowhere – I burst into flooding tears, emotionally overwhelmed, while staring at a Buddha statue in a temple in Vientiane – even writing about it now is making my eyes well up.

I have only ever experienced the feeling I associate with the World card in tarot once: I was visiting Wat Phou in Champasak, a – formerly Hindu – temple in Laos. As I approached the temple and spent time wandering around inside, an almost indescribable feeling of peace, serenity, and the unity of all things washed through me. After an hour or so of slowly walking around the temple I went outside and collected a fallen frangipani flower from a nearby tree, the heat suffusing the air around the temple with its sweet fragrance, and put it in my hair. Towards the end of my descent down the temple steps, an older local couple, who were starting the climb up, stopped to speak to me, both smiling the husband said only “you are beautiful”. Now, even at that age I had dealt with plenty of creeps and advances from much older men, and this situation was really not that. I know in that moment I was radiating all of the serenity the temple had brought me, and that they saw and felt it too. It wasn’t a complement of my looks, it was a recognition of the elated spiritual state I was in.

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These memories have always remained so strong while many others from my travels of over a decade ago have faded, and it’s only now that I am truly letting myself understand why. All along, these memories that still spark an incredible emotional and physical reaction in me (actually crying a bit now), were trying to show me the way, gently prodding me to my path, urging me to question why these seemingly small events were held so close and dear to my heart. I turned a deaf ear to them, inflexible and blocked from the message. But I hear it now.

Those swords that I used to have defensively pointed outwards, barring any of the spiritual messages trying to make it through are now calmly resting at the still point in the centre. Rather than using the swords of my intellect for harsh and unyielding skepticism, they are now being used as a conduit, actively enriching my spiritual growth and translating the messages I feel, into ideas I can understand. Akron and Banzhaf use the term “holistic” to discuss the experience or mind-frame of the Six of Swords, and that is where I feel I am now, I am slowly de-compartmentalising all of the different aspects of myself, reuniting my long banished spirit with my body and mind.

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I am only at the very beginning of this journey, and I look forward with hope and excitement to the places it will take me. One of my favourite depictions of this card comes from the Tarot of the Hidden Realm. In it we see the birth of a new dawn through grey clouds over a mountain range, ravens of prophecy and otherworldly messages herald the rising sun, and the scene is infused with shades of muted purples. I find this colour choice very fitting as purple is associated with the crown chakra, the seat of spirituality, liberated thought, divine grace and transformation, and the woman shown appears to be responding to that call of a higher wisdom, breathing it in. This card is such a perfect expression of that tangible sensation of release and surrender – a surrender to the air, to the mountains, to spirit, to new ideas and new feelings, and a recognition of a higher purpose.

Another favourite of mine is from the Tarot of the Sidhe, the image and caption, “Insight’s Voyage” speak for themselves so perfectly.

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These images show us that the destination is not yet important, it is the decision to move in a new direction that counts. We may very well return to exactly the same place, situation and people, in fact we may never physically leave at all, but the important message of this card is to seek new insight, to restore inner balance between heart and mind and to reach the shores of new inner landscapes, transformed.

So, what is the Six of Swords to me? It is taking the sharp and conflicted elements of my intellect on a healing journey through the watery aspects of spirit and emotion. It is allowing myself to wonder at the mysteries of life. It is letting myself be uplifted and carried by my soul, wherever it wishes to take me.

If you feel like sharing, I would love to hear about your spiritual path, how did it find you? Are you settled in, or do you still feel a bit like you’re flying blind? Are there any tarot cards you associate with your journey so far?

*Wat Phou temple picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons