Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tarot and Dragons: The Dragon Tarot by Donaldson and Pracownik (2 of 2)

The difference between “The Dragon Tarot” and “The Celtic Dragon Tarot” (Conway and Hunt) is the role of humans amongst the dragons. Both decks are constructed for the seeker to go on a spiritual journey with dragons. However, “The Celtic Dragon Tarot” places greater emphasis on the activities of humans. Although a few cards feature only dragons, many of them stress human interaction with the various dragons. In fact, Conway writes that dragons act as our astral guardians. She writes, “…how wise and wonderful dragons can be. They are some of the best co-magicians….They can be good friends, powerful protectors, and wise teachers.” Moreover, she stresses that humans and dragons should work together as co-magicians.

Meanwhile, “The Dragon Tarot” is dragon-centric, and in fact humans are absent from the cards. Instead, Donaldson takes people to meet the dragons in their homeland. He writes, “The Dragon is there to tease us, to provoke us, to stimulate us to a higher plane of being, to force us to look within.”  As I see it, the dragons will challenge humans and be their guides, but not necessarily be their co-magicians. The dragons will meet humans but only on their own terms and at their own choosing. Some will be indifferent to people, whilst others will be friendly towards them.

What is important in “The Dragon Tarot” is taking the Journey to the Tree of Life to gain wholeness. The author writes, “What is not important is being ‘right’ or ‘correct’. What is important is enjoying the experience of traveling in your Journey.” Unlike Conway who stresses the correct spiritual process, Donaldson celebrates the wonder of being in the presence of dragons, as they go about their daily lives.

In deciding between the two decks, I would choose “The Dragon Tarot” over “The Celtic Dragon Tarot”. The dragons of the former are alive and separate from us whilst the dragons of the latter seem to be elusive and imaginary. In addition, Conway stresses how dragons can be called upon to help us to do whatever. She writes, “Because of the ancient wisdom of dragons, they are also valuable to call upon when performing any type of divination.” Perhaps Conway does not mean this, but she seems to imply that dragons can be our cosmic bellhops. In contrast, Donaldson presents dragons who are independent of humans, and who chose what they wish to do.

Since I have a strong visual side, the artwork of Tarot cards is also important to me.  The artwork of Lisa Hunt for me seems to be sketchy and misty for me.  Meanwhile, the art of Peter Pracownik is more full-bodied and interesting. His dragons are approachable and real. Moreover, I can obtain more meaning from Pracownik’s images that I could that from Hunt’s.

Lastly since I had such a strong reaction to the cards of “The Dragon Tarot” and not “The Celtic Dragon Tarot”, I would choose the former. Rarely I have reacted so strongly to a Tarot deck, and want to explore this further. Since the card images of this deck act as portals to Dragonland, I can see myself going through them with the Fool acting as my guide. I could gain a lot from using “The Dragon Tarot”.

Works Used:
Bartlett, Sarah, “The Tarot Bible”, Sterling: New York, 2006.
Conway, D.J. and Lisa Hunt, “The Celtic Dragon Tarot”, Llewellyn: St. Paul (MN), 2005.
Donaldson, Terry and Peter Pracownik, “The Dragon Tarot”, U.S. Games: Stamford (CT), 1996.
Fontana, David, “The Essential Guide to the Tarot”, Watkins Publishing: London, 2011.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tarot and Dragons: The Dragon Tarot by Donaldson and Pracownik (1 of 2)

 The Dragon Tarot” (Terry Donaldson and Peter Pracownik, U.S. Games: Stamford (CT), 1996.)

After reviewing the cards of the “The Dragon Tarot”, two of the cards - The Fool (0) of the Major Arcana and the Ace of Wands of Minor Arcana - drew me to them. Normally when I review a Tarot deck, I usually pick The Fool (0) and the 10 of Swords, since they deal with beginnings and endings. With these particular cards, I can usually tell the author’s intent for their deck. However in the case of “The Dragon Tarot”, The Fool (0) and Ace of Wands seem to have spoken to me on an elemental level.

In “The Dragon Tarot”, I see The Fool (0) and the Ace of Wands as bookends. They both feature dragons who are accomplished in what they do – the Fool is the gambler who plays the odds, while the Ace of Wands is a careful thinker who tests everything first. I seem them as the id and ego respectively.  The Fool, who is interested in people, and the Ace of Wands, who is interested in ideas join together to be the ying and yang of life.

I realized that I have a personal interest in these two cards. They represent my two lives – before and after my traumatic brain injury. Prior to my injury, I was the dragon of the Ace of Wands. In my lab surrounded by my books, papers, and test tubes, I explored the magickal world of nature and science. The dragon of The Fool (0) is the present me, who leaves life up to chance, and goes with the flow.

Moreover, I see in the dragon who represents the Fool, a lively, funny, and compassionate guide ready for anything. Armed with his jester wand and dice, this dragon is both guide and gatekeeper for me. The bubbles behind him and the Uranus sigil at the bottom inform me that this dragon is also knowledgeable, original, and eccentric, much like myself. I feel comfortable going on a journey with this dragon.  Donaldson writes, “I am the Fool, here to mark your entry into Dragonland….Come on, tell me a joke, and let’s hear some real wisdom.” Since the divinatory meaning of this card is “a new chapter in your life”, I feel that this Fool can lead me to the Ace of Wands.

The divinatory meaning for the Ace of Wands is “a new enterprise”. Although I cannot be that particular dragon again, I can become a new version of him in my life. The Big Dipper on his wall will guide me to the true North of myself. I see this dragon as a guide for the new direction of my life.  For example in my therapy, I test each new activity and work to include it into my new brain.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

BEAR-DOG FAMILY (Amphicyonids): Fluidity in Judgment

Since Amphicyonids resemble both Bears and Dogs, They became known as “Bear-dogs”.  These Carnivores had skulls similar to Dogs but feet and claws similar to Bears.  In addition, various Members of the Bear-dog Family had bodies that ranged from being Dog-like to Bear-like.  In fact, scientists once thought that Amphicyonids were “true dogs”, but now regard Them to be closer kin to Bears.
From the Eocene to the Pleistocene epoch (about forty-six million years ago to two million years ago), Members of the Bear-dog Family lived in Africa, Eurasia, and North America.  Bear-dogs ranged from fast-moving meat eaters who looked like Dogs to Panda-like scavengers.  Possessing sharp claws, many of the Bear-dogs were active diggers who dug out Rodents out of their burrows for food. Denning in steep river banks, Bear-dogs would line their homes with fur and soft leaves.  Meanwhile, other Bear-dogs scavenged by driving other Animals away from their kills.  However these versatile Carnivores became extinct when They were unable to compete with “true Bears”, who emerged during the Pleistocene epoch.
Bear-dogs point to the hazards of using our time to measure and analyze deep time.  For example, a close relative of Amphicyonids was Cynodictis, who was once thought to be the first “true dog” (which turned out to be false). Although Bear-dogs are now traditionally regarded as relatives of Bears, that also is in doubt.  Upon further study, Bear-dogs may be placed in their own grouping of Carnivores. 
The evolution of Dog is more complex than first realized.  The first Dogs were Hesperocyons, who emerged in North America.  Later Bears split off from the Doglike branch of Carnivores.  Meanwhile, Bear-dogs existed before and alongside various Members of the Dog Family.
Bear-dogs, by virtue of their fluidity, challenge us to establish new ways of seeing deep time.  Since our time is unlike deep time, we have little to compare this time with.  Therefore when we go into deep time, we must leave our preconceived notions behind.  However, we should not leave our sensible judgment behind.  By being sensible but not static, we can be more accurate in our judgments.  Bear-dogs will not allow us to stagnate in deep time, but will keep us as fluid as They are. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Divination in Nature: Trees

My friends were interested in having me do divination for them.  They asked a variety of questions, and even asked follow up questions for further clarification. However, my friends were not invested in the outcome of the divination, but did think that my answers were accurate.  

The divination system that I used to answer my friends’ questions was cartomancy.  The oracle cards that I used were “Voice of the Trees” by Mickie Mueller (Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN), 2011).  Basing her system on the Irish Ogham, the author presented on each of the cards, her interpretation of the meaning of that particular Ogham letter.  Every card depicts a tree, shows an action scene, and also lists the divinatory meaning.

W.C. asked, “Will I get married?”  For the answer, I drew “Quert (Apple)” which means “Choice, Healing”.  The card showed a priestess holding two apples to choose from, which confused my friend. I then reshuffled the deck, and pulled out “Ailim (Silver Fir or Elm)”, which has the meaning of “Delight, Awe”.  

 Again this seemed to be a strange answer.  Then we examined the card, which displayed a fir and an elm tree.  The author explained that both trees were associated with Ailim.  In addition, two girls who were holding hands at the top of a mountain were depicted looking at the village below.  I told him that he would have a choice between two women, when he does decide to marry.  W.C. seemed satisfied with the answer.

D.C. asked if his sports team would have a winning season this year, since they have had several poor seasons already.  After shuffling, I drew “Straif (Blackthorn)”, which read “Adversity, Sacrifice.”  The card depicted a man being stabbed by a blackthorn thorn as he walked along the hedges.  I told my friend that his team would lose more games than they would win.  He seemed resigned to this news.

S.T. asked, “Will I continue as a social worker?”  The card, I pulled, was “Tinne (Holly)” which means “Challenge, Justice”.  Instead of an Irish warrior, the card depicted a Saxon, an enemy of the Irish.  I told him that he would have difficulty remaining in his present occupation.

Since S.T. wanted more information, I reshuffled the deck and took out “Phagos (Beech)”, which read, “Experience, Opportunity”.  The picture on the card was of an elderly druid instructing his young apprentice on the finer points of writing.  When I told my friend that he was going to be a druid, he seemed pleased.

A.Y. asked if a controversial pipeline would be built.  For the answer, I drew “Luis (Rowan)”, which means “Protection, Defense.”  The illustration depicted a man holding a rowan staff protected by an invisible dragon.  I interpreted this to mean that pipeline will not be built.  A.Y. said she hoped that reading was correct.

This deck can be found at the author's website: "Voice of the Trees"

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tarot and Dragons: Celtic Dragon Tarot by Conway and Hunt (2 of 2)

In the Minor Arcana, the Ten of Swords has two contradictory meanings.  One is the final end – there is absolutely nothing beyond this point.  The other meaning is to go through the end – seeing what is left after total annihilation, and moving beyond the end to a new beginning.

The Ten of Swords, as D.J. Conway presents it, differs slightly from the traditional R-W meaning.  She writes, “The woman and her dragon companion have fought a good fight against the negative events of life, but are temporarily defeated despite their courage and skills.”  The author continues, “Then the woman warrior and the dragon will draw upon deep reserves of energy from the four Elements and rise up to continue their spiritual energy.”

Conway’s version of the Ten of Swords reflects a transition rather than finality.  The woman and dragon are severely wounded but not dead.  Instead of an end, there is only a long period of struggle.  This card reminds me of the saying, “I am hurt but not slain. Let me lay down and bleed awhile, and then I will rise and fight again.” (Originally from “The Child Ballads: 167A: Andrew Bartin”)

Without reading the author’s description, I would not have guessed that the distant rocks were for healing.  Faint in the background, these stones only seem to be a part of the harshness of the Ten of Swords.  The only indicator of hope for me is the yellow amongst the grey sky.  (I wonder if this is a sunrise.)

My view of the Ten of Swords of the “Celtic Dragon Tarot” is one of waiting and constriction.  The light green and grey tones indicate eventual healing but not the finality of death.  At the moment all is dark and difficult, but there is hope and help in the future.

In the “Celtic Dragon Tarot”, both The Fool (0) and the Ten of Swords seem to be about hope and new cycles.  Full of hope, the Fool stands at the crossroads of his spiritual journey.  Anticipation and promise exude from this card, while hidden dangers lurk waiting for the Fool to commit a misstep.

Meanwhile, the Ten of Swords is the mature Fool with her dragon companions.  In their travels, they were set upon by their enemies.  They fought valiantly, but are sorely wounded.  Hope lurks in the stones waiting for the two to seek their healing.  Afterwards, they will rise as like Wounded Warriors to continue their journey, full of renewed wisdom and strength.

Works Used:

Bartlett, Sarah, “The Tarot Bible”, Sterling: New York, 2006.

Child, Francis, “The Child Ballads: 167A: Andrew Bartin”, Sacred Texts, 2011, http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/child/ch167.htm,

Conway, D.J. and Lisa Hunt, “The Celtic Dragon Tarot”, Llewellyn: St. Paul (MN), 2005.

Drury, Neville, “The Tarot Workbook”, Thunder Bay: San Diego, 2004.

Hart, Francene, “Sacred Geometry Oracle Deck”, Bear & Co.: Rochester (VT), 2001.