Friday, August 26, 2016

Tarot: Patterns of the Major Arcana, "The Hero's Journey," and Others


 The patterns in the Major Arcana set up by Teresa Michelsen in The Complete Tarot Reader and that of Arlene Tognetti and Lisa Lenard in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tarot and Fortunetelling are variations on the traditional Fool’s Journey of the Tarot. What each author did was to split their cards into groups to make this journey more understandable for themselves. Each group embraces a particular concept which is helpful to these Tarot authors. Each of the two patterns start with a young person meeting significant people and facing challenge. After wrestling with problems, young person matures and emerges in the world spiritually enlightened. The various groupings help the reader to understand The Fool’s Journey in depth by placing focus on particular parts of it from varying points of view.
 
 Meanwhile, Robert Place in The Tarot History, Symbolism, and Divination sees the Major Arcana differently. For him, it is not a journey, but a focus on particular aspects of the person. In his patterns, Place sets up Plato’s Three Parts of the Soul. Appetite, the first part of the soul, is represented by The Magician through The Chariot. These cards depict the desires a person has such as seeking power or love. The next group, which is Strength to Temperance, represents the Will (Spirit), the second part of the soul. These cards focus on the emotions such as seeking solitude or justice. The final group – The Devil to The World – represent Reason, the third part of the Soul. These cards highlight the mind, which Plato placed as the highest part of the soul.  

 Two patterns that I developed could probably be considered variations on The Fool’s Journey. The first is based on the therapeutic model of moving from illness to wellness. The Magician to The Hierophant are the various perceptions of reality, ranging from “mind over matter” to “strict rules of life.” The next group, The Lovers to Justice, are the issues of life that everyone has to cope with from changing homes to bad luck. The Hanged Man to The Tower are the struggles for people to overcome their distorted thinking and misperceptions. From The Star to The World are the rewards of healthy thinking and wellness, which only happens when the person implements these changes in their life.

 The other pattern was inspired by Journey to the Dark Goddess by Jane Meredith. This Journey is to the Underworld to meet the Dark Goddess. There, the person reclaims the lost and dark parts of themselves. Meredith says that we cannot go to the Dark Goddess while we are still in our place in the world. First, we have to be stripped of everything that we value. Once in the Underworld, we meet the Dark Goddess, who holds these remnants of our selves. Whilst in the Underworld, we are dead until a turning point occurs to restore us to life. This propels us upward. Afterwards, we become whole and emerge back into the Upper World reborn. 

 This particular Journey has four parts. The first is “Preparing for Descent.” The Magician through The Lovers are who we are in the Upper World. We have to give up all of this to undertake the second part, which is “The Descent to the Underworld.” The Chariot to Justice denotes our removal of our status and our acceptance of our fate. The third part is “Dwelling in the Underworld.” Like the Hanged Man, we are limbo as we die. Death to The Devil explains our time in the Underworld. The turning point for “The Ascent,” the fourth part, is The Tower. When we return to the Upper World we gain The Star through Judgement. Now as The World, we are reborn.

 Arranging the cards into patterns helped me to see how various processes occur in the Tarot. Each pattern highlights a different aspect of the Major Arcana. Within each pattern, I can understand how each card relates to the others such as why is Temperance between Death and The Devil. When a number of them from a group appear in a reading, the reader can figure out where the questioner is in the process. 

Works Used:
Lorenz, Hendrick, “Ancient Theories of the Soul.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 22 April 2009. Web. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ancient-soul/ .
Meredith, Janet, Journey to The Dark Goddess. Moon Books: Winchester (UK). 2012. Print.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sturgeon: Be Responsible

Sturgeon are ancient fish who swam in the waters when the dinosaurs first emerged on the earth. Today, these living fossils are considered to be the most primitive of the bony fish. Sturgeon belongs to the Acipenseridae family which has twenty-seven species. Native to the lakes, rivers, and coastlines of Eurasia and North America, these giant fish resemble armored torpedoes. Their distinctive bony plates (hard scutes) stud their back and sides.

One thing that Sturgeons are well-known for are their dramatic leaping out of the water. In his poem, The Song of Hiawatha, Longfellow described this – “saw the sturgeon, Nahma leaping, scattering drops like beads of wampum.” As the largest fish in freshwater, a massive Sturgeon can kill or break the bones of unwary boaters. As to why They leap, nobody knows. Theories range from communicating in their group to Sturgeon simply enjoying doing it.

Sturgeon have been highly regarded in many cultures. In India, Sturgeons represented royalty. Among the Natives Peoples of North America, Sturgeon provided both wisdom and food. Ancient Greeks regarded sturgeon eggs (caviar) as a gift from Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. In Europe, Sturgeon migrating up the Danube would feed entire villages by allowing Themselves to be caught. When people became too greedy, these Fish stopped coming.

In Europe and North America, Sturgeon were once plentiful. However, the demand for caviar has halved their life expectancy from over 100 years to about 50 years. In the Great Lakes, overfishing and pollution has decimated those populations. The story of Sturgeon is a sad one of people ceasing to respect Them. Now this remarkable Fish is going extinct because of human folly.

Governments in Europe and North America have made concentrated efforts to save the remaining Sturgeon. Because of this, populations for some species of Sturgeon have stabilized on the Danube, Ural, and Volga Rivers. These Fish are making a small comeback in the Great Lakes Regions as people rehabilitate the environment to be more receptive to the well-being of the Sturgeon.

Alarmed by the pending extinction of Gulf Sturgeon, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Air Force, state wildlife agencies and local universities combined their efforts to save this Fish. The result is that these populations of Sturgeon are thriving in Florida, and are expanding to other regional rivers. Meanwhile, Native Peoples of North America have joined with various governments and commercial fisheries to keep the Sturgeon in their regions from becoming extinct. In 1977, the citizens living around Lake Winnebago (Wisconsin) watershed formed “Sturgeon for Tomorrow.” Their efforts were rewarded with a “stunning recovery in that watershed” for Sturgeon today.

Sturgeon teaches responsibility. Because of human carelessness and deliberate action, Sturgeon, worldwide, are close to extinction. Today, people are trying to repair the damage that has been done. It is an uncertain future for Sturgeon but They are amazingly resilient fish. Willing to work with people, Sturgeon have been consuming the invasive zebra mussels and gobies in the Great Lakes. In return, people are taking responsibility for the well-being of this ancient Fish.
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The sturgeon of Sturgeon Moon are the sturgeon of the Great Lakes.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Mindmapping

The cards that I chose to mindmap with were from The Tarot of the Animal Lords. The center card for the map was II. The High Priestess. Upper left was III. The Empress and upper right was VI. The Lovers. The bottom cards were IX. The Hermit (left) and XXI. The World (right). I could match several cards but forming a story that related to The High Priestess using all of them was difficult.
 
 Mindmapping was hard for me. I saw various relationships between the cards but they did not all fully coalesce around any one card. The individual cards seemed too discrete to mesh together. I could see the layout as an entire story. However, starting with one card and relating it to all of the rest was difficult. 

The High Priestess is depicted as a seated cow elephant in a glade. She is holding an open book. Scurrying about her feet are two chipmunks fussing with the scrolls on the ground. The words that came to me for this card were “regal,” “knowledge,” “questioning,” and “self-knowledge.” Since The High Priestess guides through intuition, this became the starting point of the story, that unfolded card by card. 


The Empress is a she-wolf sitting on a throne, with a turtle-shell shield
next to her. The scene around her is full of life with her pups chasing the butterflies. The similarities between her and The High Priestess are that they are crowned females sitting on thrones. Moreover, the two have two small animals next to them.  One difference is that The Empress holds a scepter while The High Priestess a book. The story moves from the quiet reflection of The High Priestess to the busy life of The Empress. These two cards with their small animals mark the inner and outer lives, the spiritual and temporal.

 The Lovers present two mandarin ducks standing under an orange tree. They are tenderly taking leave of each other. The High Priestess watches, knowing that they will need their intuition to guide them for what will be in store for them. The Empress notes the male’s duty to the Crown by his sword. The Lovers are caught between their spiritual and temporal lives. The story then becomes how they will solve their dilemma. 



The answer is The Hermit. Holding a light, a moon bear enters a cave. Hanging from his belt are scrolls and keys. Behind him, attached to a tree branch is a beehive dripping in honey.

The Hermit’s life has become unsettled, forcing him to find his own answers.  Perhaps he has experienced the horrors of war or has changed so much that his lover does not know him. The choices presented by The Empress and The High Priestess weighs heavily on him. Meanwhile, will his lover wait for him? How this drama will turn out is revealed in the next card.

 The final card is The World. This card features two dancing dolphins. In the moonlight under a flowering tree, the dolphins are celebrating. The World is the answer to what happened to The Lovers. Finding solace within, The Hermit, he rejoined the world and his lover, who did wait for him. This coupled have weathered their separation and trouble. Now together, the mature pair dance in happiness, having lived through the worst and now enjoying the best. 

The High Priestess told The Lovers to follow their intuition. The Empress showed them what they had to do before they could go on. Meanwhile, The Hermit had sought to understand what happened to him. Following his intuition and the advice of The Empress, The Hermit returned home. Now The World, The Lovers became whole again. Celebrating their long life, The Lovers thanked The High Priestess for her guidance.

 Laying the cards out as a whole, I did move from one scene to the next. I could see the connections between each of the cards. The story unfolded with The Lovers as the final focus. The Empress and The High Priestess gave them choices. This became a story of a relationship grappling with separation and healing.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Using Animal Oracle Cards to Discover Your Animals

My latest blog is up at Witches and Pagans.

A popular method for finding your Animals of the Heart is with animal oracle cards. While there are many fine decks, they are all limited in both the types and number of animals that they feature. Moreover, most decks are mammal-centric. Birds are usually represented by “Crow (or Raven),” “Eagle,” “Hawk,” “Hummingbird,” and “Owl.” Reptiles are limited to “Lizard,” “Snake,” and “Turtle.” Insects (and related others) are “Bee,” “Dragonfly,” and “Spider.”

Therefore, I would recommend a world-oriented deck since they will feature a wider range of animals. The methods that I suggest can work with most decks. Many popular decks tend to be North American specific, with a sprinkling of world animals. There are special themed decks which focus on Australian animals, birds, pets and other related topics. If you feel strongly about a certain grouping, then use those specialty decks.

To use the deck, shuffle the cards and deal seven cards. Study the animals and note your reactions. For example, you draw “Lizard,” what does that mean? I have only one deck out of the fifty that I own which features Tuatara, a lizard-like reptile. Therefore if an uncommon animal is calling to you, be prepared for a deeper investigation.

Read more at using animal oracle cards to discover your animals
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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Freewriting

For freewriting, I chose I. The Magician, XI. Strength, and XVII. The Stars from the Tarot of the Animal Lords. I focused on them in order from The Magician to The Stars. (The Tarot of the Animal Lords refer to XVII. The Star as “Stars.”) As I was freewriting, I experienced each card differently. Then as I went from one card to the next, they flowed together as one. The Magician created the reality for Strength to perceive. From Strength comes the ability to receive spiritual guidance from The Star.

I. The Magician features a fox playing “find the bean” game on a toad stool. He is standing in a briar patch. Watching the fox is a scarlet tanager and a mouse. At first glance, the fox is an illusionist simply switching the bean around. As I pondered the adage, “The hand is quicker than the eye,” I perceived that the fox is also an alchemist. With his gestures, he weaves illusion into reality. As the mouse and bird watch, he weaves them into his new reality. Making the beans appear and disappear under the cups, he challenges his audience to ponder if there really is a boundary between reality and imagination.
 
 Traditionally, The Magician combines the four elements into a fifth of the spirit. The elements are represented as the bird (air), the mouse (earth), the cups (water), and the thorns (fire), in this card. The fifth element is represented by the toadstool, the alchemy of the imagination. We, as the audience, become participants in The Magician’s creation. We join in the illusion and unite with the Magician. We bring the vital element, the spark to weld the two worlds. The Magician, as the midwife, helps to birth the new world of magic realism.

 XI. Strength depicts a mongoose embracing a cobra, as the earth under them is opening up. Behind them, several volcanoes are spewing out ash. While chaos erupts around them, two salamanders intently watch the battle between the mongoose and the cobra. Strangely, the watching salamanders are active, while the mongoose and cobra remain frozen in time.
 
 My freewriting enabled me to understand how strength balances the chaos and order. The mongoose is calmly focused on the cobra, while the cobra is focused on the chaos. There is stillness within the whirlwind. Strength becomes the balance between the rational and the irrational. If the mongoose places too much focus on the cobra, he will fall into the cracks opening underneath him. If the mongoose is distracted, the cobra will slip away. Strength is deciding when to hold on and when to let go. The salamanders remind us of the choices that we have to make to keep the balance. 

XVII. The Stars features a seahorse pouring out light as he kneels on a lily pad. Beside him on another lily pad is a nesting grebe. Stars in the sky and reflected in the lake surround the pair. A glowing star dominates the sky, as the pair float in serenity and peace. A feeling of spiritual rest fills the card.
 
 In freewriting, I pondered the grebe. Why did the artist include her in the picture? What does the grebe have to do with the stars? The seahorse pours light from the sky into the lake. He is replenishing the waters of life from the heavens. Meanwhile, the grebe is simply nesting on a lily pad.
 Grebes are noted for their graceful mating. Therefore I reasoned that the grebe was the representation of “grace.” Sitting on her nest, the grebe patiently hatches the new soul. This self will be infused with the waters of life. Therefore The Star is the soul at peace after being created by the Magician and honed by Strength. 

 Freewriting provided me with an entry into each of the cards. It allowed me to focus as I let my mind wander to consider the deeper meanings in each of the cards. Freewriting allowed free association, which brought about a deeper inquiry. For me, it was a good method to get to know the cards.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thorny Devil: Problem Solving

Known by many names, Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus) is more than an ordinary lizard. With her spiky body and crown of thorns, She resembles a walking nightmare. Her other names – Moloch, Horny Devil, and Thorny Dragon – emphasize her “hellish” nature. The scientist who named Her, Dr. John Grey certainly thought that. He recalled an ancient demon from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, when he gave Thorny Devil, her scientific name. Dr. Grey also cited the Canaanite God Moloch from the Old Testament, who received sacrificed children.

Looks can be deceiving. The only animal that Thorny Devil terrorizes is Ant. She spends her day wandering in the Australian Outback, searching for their nests. When Thorny Devil finds one, She parks Herself next to its edge. Catching one ant at a time with her sticky tongue, She consumes 45 ants a minute (2,500 in an hour). Thorny Devil is the walking nightmare for ants.

As She roams the Outback, Thorny Devil slowly lifts one foot at a time. Swaying from side to side, this small harmless lizard walks jerkily across the sandy soil. Since Thorny Devil cannot run fast, She relies on camouflage to keep Her safe. To blend into the landscape, Thorny Devil changes her colors from pale yellow to olive to brown.

Herpetologist Eric Pianka described his frustrating experience searching for a Thorny Devil. Spending a day in the Great Victoria Desert, Dr. Pianka followed the lizard’s faint tracks, which went around in a figure eight. Searching for most of the day, he found the Thorny Devil’s eating spot, sleeping spot, and bathroom spot, but no lizard. Then as evening was coming, he nearly stumbled over the Thorny Devil. For the entire day, this lizard had been sitting in the center of the figure eight. In his search for the Thorny Devil, Dr. Pianka had passed the lizard many times.
 
Well-suited for living in the tough dry areas of Australia, Thorny Devil has a unique way of collecting scarce water. When a rare shower occurs, the tiny grooves between her spikes will channel the rain to her mouth. Tilting her body forward, Thorney Devil gulps down the water. In the morning, when the dew condenses on her spikes, these grooves will direct the moisture to her mouth for drinking.

Thorny Devil uses her prickly armor for defense. Her head horns warn predators like Blue-tongued Lizard that She is painful to swallow. On the back of her neck, Thorny Devil has a satchel or false head. When She tucks her head between her forelegs, Blue-tongued Lizard sees only this large spiky “head” and retreats.

Thorny Devil is a member of the Agamidae Family (“dragon lizards”). (This Family includes bearded dragons and Australian frilled lizards.) The Agamidae of the Old World are distantly related to the Iguanas of the New World. Thorny Devil most resembles “Horny Toad” (Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos)) of the Iguana Family. Living in the Southwestern United States, “Horny Toad” faces the same challenges. Although They belong to different families, these two lizards could be twins.

Living in similar habitats, Thorny Devil and “Horny Toad” have parallel lives. Both feast on ants, and obtain water using the same methods. These two lizards demonstrate convergent evolution, which means that evolutionary pathways can be predicted and repeated. How these two lizards solve their problems with similar methods is revolutionary in understanding the challenges of nature for every species on the earth.

Thorny Devil teaches problem solving. To live in her harsh homeland, She employs many strategies for survival. Her spines serve as double duty – scaring predators and collecting water. Amid the desert shrubs, her coloring conceals Thorny Devil. She eats the ants that are plentiful where She lives. An excellent problem solver, Thorny Devil teaches how to be effective and efficient. Let Her be your guide. Just remember that looks can be deceiving.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cryolophosaurus: Use Your Imagination

In 1991, the first dinosaur to be found in Antarctica was Cryolophosaurus. This opened up a new continent to dinosaur discoveries. Named for the geologist David Elliot, who first excavated this dinosaur, Cryolophosaurus’ full taxonomic name became “Cryolophosaurus elliotti.” In 1994, He became the first Antarctic dinosaur to be named. This dinosaur’s name means “frozen crest lizard.”

Life in the Antarctic during the early Jurassic was much different than today. At that time, Antarctica was further north and closer to the equator. Also, the warm Jurassic oceans allowed for plant and animal life to flourish there. However, there were still long periods without a sunrise. This continent was also cooler than other places. Not many large dinosaurs of the Jurassic could tolerate either condition very well. Medium sized Cryolophosaurus did and thrived. This meat-eater had little completion for the Pterosaurs and Prosauropods that He hunted.

Cryolophosaurus is the oldest Tetanuran to be found. Tetanurae are dinosaurs with large stiff tails. They include Spinosaurus, Carnosaurus, and Coelurosaurus. Tetanurae bore more resemblance to birds than many other dinosaurs. Because Cryolophosaurus lived in the early Jurassic, this meant that these dinosaurs evolved earlier than originally thought.

Cryolophosaurus is also noted for his oddly shaped crest. Since this crest reminded people of Elvis Presley’s pompadour, He became known as “Elvisaurus.” Paleontologists believed that his crest was used to identify who He was and to attract Females for mating. Like an Elvis fan, Female Cryolophosaurus would “swoon” eyeing his crest, Or so people could imagine.

Cryolophosaurus encourages people to use their imaginations. Picture Him singing rock’n’roll songs to his adoring fans. Imagine his home as a warm place with trees, a Graceland just for Him. Have fun with your mind pictures about Cryolophosaurus!