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

Free Weekly Reading: A Message for May 1-7, 2017

 

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Summary: If you have been feeling the pain of heartbreak, isolation or loneliness, this week’s message is for you: it is time to start that delicate journey of moving on. You have felt and acknowledged the pain, now you must begin processing it. What have you learnt about yourself? What greater wisdom can be gleaned from the situation? How can you best heal and move forward? Start doing the work to escape this dark place you have found yourself in.

Together these cards tell a beautiful story of the beginnings of recovery, and in each we see a radiant sun in the background. Our Dreamer Three has her back turned to it, still mourning the broken pieces of her heart, while her hair beckons dark and poisonous clouds that threaten to block out the light. In the next image we see a clear sky, the Dancer readies herself to take that first difficult step, to strive for more and live in colour once again; reaching for that mountain, onwards and upwards towards the regenerative light of the sun. Now that she knows what she must do, the Hermit is ready to guide the way. He points to a hill, high up, beckoning her beyond tumultuous waters to a place illuminated by a burning sun; a place of lessons learned, of wisdom and acceptance.

This week it is time to step out of that pool of festering emotions, of a life lived wallowing in shades of grey. The Hermit invites you on a journey, seek his guidance through meditation, find the centre where his wisdom resides and practice some ritual of release. A difficult climb awaits you, and you may not be able to feel the sun’s rays yet, but the path is before you. Start small, but start now, and if the weather allows, take a minute to bask in the light of the sun. Imagine its rays melting through your skin and filling that hole with its pure, brilliant, life-giving light.

 

Tarot of the Sidhe by Emily Carding, published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2010

‘3 Voices’ Personal Reading – Motherhood and Burnout

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It took me a couple of days to decide whether or not I wanted to share this post, it is long and very personal and could open me up to some unpleasant judgments. I realized though that as someone who wants to become a professional reader, and who hopes that people will trust me to be non-judgmental and empathetic, I need to open myself up, to trust in the kindness of others and create that safe space myself. So I’m carving out that little nook right here and right now on this blog.

I’ve been sluggish and in a bit of a slump these past three weeks, my husband has been working double time with no weekends off, which means I have been on my own all day and most of the night with the children, and am feeling something like a maternal burnout. Last Friday he was supposed to have the day off, but, as often happens, he got called out. When he told me that morning that yet again he wouldn’t be back until the evening, I did something I haven’t done in a long time – I burst into tears. It’s not that I don’t cry often, I’m very affected by films, books and the news and it seems every week I cry about something I’ve seen or read, but I can’t remember the last time I cried for myself.

The past few weeks have been overwhelming and I really needed a day where I didn’t feel that the sole responsibility for the kids was on my shoulders. My three year old is in the throws of boundary pushing and can be so violent towards her younger brother that it is not safe to leave them alone together. The previous day she took a running shove at him with such force his feet left the ground before coming crashing down with a loud thump to his head. I’m not sure the word incensed even covers it, I lost my temper and shouted at her like I never have before. My screams of anger were almost immediately followed by incredible guilt for scaring her. She can be so tooth-achingly sweet and funny and play very well with him, but the switch from friendly playmate to baby tormenter is on a hair trigger, and while the good times are a very, very good, the bad times are also very, very bad. It feels like there is no middle-ground, just extreme vacillations between everyone super happy and giggling to everyone super upset and screaming.

Anyway, today I decided to ask my tools to reflect back what I am feeling right now. It isn’t that I don’t know what I am feeling, or even why, but I need a way to externalize my frustrations and view them from outside of myself so I can look at them with some semblance of objectivity and detachment.

For no particular reason I decided to draw a rune, an oracle and a tarot card. When I first pulled the rune I thought it was Gebo – this is a new set and I haven’t used it in a reading before – but it didn’t look quite right and after a few minutes I realized it was Nauthiz. In the first instance however, Gebo resonated so strongly that I decided to pull it out as well and add it to the reading. Next I drew the Night Queen from the Enchanted Oracle. This freeform sort of spread still didn’t feel quite complete so I also drew a card from the Tarot of the Sidhe. The positions hold no established meaning and I let my intuition guide me in terms of the order in which they should be read, and I must say, for such a disorganised mix of mediums and no spread to speak off they really did mingle into such a cohesive whole that perfectly reflected my emotions at that moment.

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Gebo, meaning ‘gift’, concerns relationships and partnerships and asks us to give freely and receive with grace and humility. It tells us that the free exchange of gifts – which can be in the form of favours or items – is one of the highest virtues, particularly amongst friends and loved ones. It represents the flows and cycles of wealth, reciprocity, broader community responsibilities and the capacity for generosity. To me it also recalls a much-loved quote of mine by Shakespeare, where Juliet says to Romeo, “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep. The more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.”

In regards to tarot correspondences, Gebo is most commonly linked to the Lovers, for me however, its appearance often conjures up the Six of Pentacles. These correspondences have no historical precedence (outside of the theory of the collective unconscious), so I see no reason to limit the Tarot’s relationship with Runes to the Major Arcana only, or even just one card. At 78:24 there’s plenty of room to play around with correspondences and combinations!

Because of Gebo’s X shape it cannot appear reversed or merkstave. However as with Tarot – and everything in life – any joy or blessing can come with a shadow aspect. For a long time now runes have taken a backseat to tarot in my practice so I decided to give myself a little refresher and watch some rune videos on YouTube and I found an interesting take on Gebo’s shadow in ‘Lurch579’s video, where he talks about how in giving of yourself, your energies and time so freely, you run the risk of losing yourself, of dissolving who you are and “giving yourself into the poor house”, be that materially or emotionally….

And BOOM. Wow. That resonates so much right now. I feel worn down, like I don’t have much left to give, and it is to do with so much more than just not having an uninterrupted night’s sleep in 3 years. I feel like I have surrendered my identity and been subsumed under motherhood. On bad days like these, there are times I feel I don’t exist outside of ‘mama’ – I am Mrs. Cellophane, void of substance, or even existence, independent of my role as a mother.

Women have to navigate an irreconcilable Catch-22 when it comes to motherhood. On the one hand, if a woman chooses not to have children a strange stigma is attached to her, as if something ‘feminine’ inside of her is broken or frigid. On the other, despite marriage and motherhood being frequently presented as the pinnacle of feminine achievement, our work in these spheres is utterly devalued and derided. I’ve experienced a couple of occasions when meeting someone new when they ask me what I do and I’ve told them I’m a stay at home mum, the response was a very deflated ‘oh’. I’m always so tempted to end my statement of what I do with a ‘for now’, just to leave some inkling impression that maybe this isn’t all there is to me, that maybe my passions, interests and talents lie beyond childrearing and never ending piles of dishes and laundry, that just perhaps, I don’t consider wiping asses a dozen times a day to be the zenith of human experience either. I have to bite my tongue and accept that anyone who responds that way isn’t worth an iota of my time anyway.

It gives me that 1950’s little woman feeling of being ‘just’ a housewife. And while my conscious, proudly feminist and logical self knows this attitude is horseshit, it still stings because it confirms the worst things that I think about myself in those dark hours: that I’m nothing, that I delivered my brain and my worthiness along with my babies, that I’ve given away all that I was and now there is nothing left but the requirement to nurture.

This feeling of being threadbare is reflected perfectly in the tarot card I pulled, Maker Five (equivalent to the Five of Pentacles) captioned ‘Winter’s Bite’, where we see the end of Autumn and a tree fairy mourning the loss of all of her leaves. She reaches out to the pieces of herself, desolate in their loss, feeling like a shell of herself, laid bare and forgotten by the world. The sun’s warming rays do not touch her but beam out to a spot beyond the horizon. As I reflected on this card it hit me that the insecurities I am feeling of being left out in the cold, of not being ‘seen’ anymore is very likely the exact same feeling that my daughter is struggling with and what drives so much of her destructive behaviour. With my attentions divided trying to keep on top of the needs of her little brother, preparing meals and general household chores she feels left out, like I’m not really seeing her.

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Nauthiz, translates to ‘need-fire’. This rune represents our needs and even the wants that we mistake for needs. It suggests that in at least one aspect of life, our needs are not being met and this is creating a blockage in our ability to move onwards and upwards on our respective paths. Often linked with the Strength card in Tarot, this rune also presents an opportunity to grow in our struggles, to put aside any shadow desire for martyrdom and do what we can to release ourselves from the constraints we put on ourselves. In this aspect I also see a relation to the Eight of Swords, where we usually see a figure bound and blindfolded in the midst of a nest of swords – we shouldn’t wait for rescue, but find a way to unbind ourselves.

This rune is often seen as a ‘bad’ one, where in fact it is just asking you the tough questions you need to answer to set yourself free. Nauthiz asks me plainly what I need and why some of these needs aren’t being met. Why do I not value myself enough to set boundaries, goals and yes, demands, around getting my needs met? Why do I deny my needs for fear of appearing weak? Is it because deep down I feel weak? What do I need to not feel, but know that I am strong enough to face any challenges? These are just some of the issues Nauthiz confronts me with, and warns me that if I don’t do something about it things are going to get a whole lot tougher. I see this as also reflecting the Maker Five, for this card too is about needs and neglect.

And last but not least, the Night Queen from the Enchanted Oracle. In the accompanying book Barbara Moore defines this card as a time where we need to go within and confront our demons, in other words, it represents a time for shadow work. This Queen tells me I need to explore the deeper origins of my insecurities, maybe do some inner-child work and see how my own childhood is affecting not only the way I parent, but also how I feel about parenting itself. There is one demon in particular this card triggered in me and the message I am getting is that I need to confront and put to rest the medical trauma I experienced at the hands of some very insensitive staff while delivering my daughter. It’s time for me to write it down in full, allow myself to feel again all that I felt at the time and release it, once and for all.