Hanging is a lot of things, but it’s not always a punishment.
Part of me wanted to skip this week’s card, because… Well, there’s not much going on, is there? I’ve been keeping busy here, but interactions with the outside world that alter the shape of my internal landscape have been, shall we say, lacking.
Still, I did the thing.
I had to laugh when I drew Le Pendu, The Hanged Man.
Like the man in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, Le Pendu of the Tarot de Maria-Celia dangles by one foot. His hands are free, though, and he appears to be sticking his tongue out — almost a “Look, Ma! No hands!” face. Nobody tied him there. He isn’t being punished. He is there of his own volition, for his own reasons.
He is waiting. Resting. Delayed. Hanging upside-down certainly gives him a new view of the world, but this comes at the price of his mobility. He is sacrifice.
I had to order a few things today. I would’ve preferred not to, but there are some supplies that are no longer available locally here. I can’t really describe how nerve-wracking it was, scrolling through lists of products to find the things we needed, all while watching things sell out before I could act. Still, this anxiety comes from a fortunate place: We have the ability to order things, or I wouldn’t’ve been looking in the first place.
It’s a helpless feeling, like hanging upside down, but Le Pendu’s hands are free and I am fortunate to be in a position to feel this helplessness to begin with.
Waiting isn’t always a punishment. Right now, it’s the choice we make for our own safety, and the safety of others. The Hanged Man has to come down some time. The helplessness and delays will pass.
Last time I drew the Ten of Swords, it didn’t take long to manifest — by the next day, I was sicker than I think I’ve ever been in my life. I’m hoping that that isn’t the case here, for obvious reasons.
This week, I used the Tarot de Maria Celia again. I’m getting the hang of interpreting the pips cards and, to be honest, it’s become one of my favorite decks. In Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired decks, the Ten of Swords typically shows a dead or distressed figure, stabbed by ten swords.
The Tarot de Maria Celia offers no such imagery; it’s the culmination of the cycle of the suit of Épées, and that can mean a lot of different things.
Don’t get me wrong, none of them are really positive. It can still stand for a time of pain or betrayal. It’s still the end of this pain, though. It’s the last numerical card in the suit, which makes it’s the last low point.
As the suit of the logical mind, the Dix D’Épées can stand for a point where the thiking mind has matured, after a cycle of pain and difficulty. Like the Ten of Swords, it’s also a sudden, crushing loss — the kind I think most of us are feeling right now, in one form or another.
This card can also stand for exhaustion, physical and mental. The Tens of any suit are the ultimate end, after the whole cycle of the suit itself. This can mean enjoying the fruits of your labor, like the Ten of Pentacles. It can also mean collapsing, gasping, at the finish line after you’ve spent yourself going through a gauntlet. With how I’ve been feeling, I can understand that. Exhaustion is a trauma response, and I think we’ve all been going through the wringer.
If the Ten of Swords/Épées offers a hope spot, it’s that things won’t be this way forever. As I mentioned before, it’s the culmination. It’s a card of logic. It says that, if we can take a bird’s eye view of our pain and maintain perspective, we can take solace in the fact that we won’t be suffering forever, and use this opportunity to analyze the situation and figure out how to keep this from happening again.
I can brace myself for bad news, but at least the bad news won’t last.
One thing I’ve learned from reading tarot is that you shouldn’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to. I wasn’t going to ask.
Still, I needed something to do with my hands, and I have more time and decks than I know what to do with, sometimes. I was waiting for the results of a well check — I’ve called and called my grandfather for days, and gotten no response. He’s very independent for his age, but I still worry (especially now). When another day passed with no answer, I bit the bullet and asked for someone to check on him.
(He’s okay. He was sick, but he’ll be home tomorrow.)
So, agitated and with shaky hands, I forced myself to put my phone down and shuffle a deck instead. I didn’t even really ask a question, I just wanted something to do.
I drew the Nine of Wands.
This card speaks of setbacks and obstacles. It’s the ninth in the cycle — the third card of the third card — the Penultimate End, but not the End End. It’s a conclusion, but not a culmination. It’s challenges, it’s exhaustion.
It kind of sucks.
The silver lining to the Nine of Wands is that, coming as it does at the end of the end, it means that you have a lot of knowledge and resources to draw on. Things are tough. You might be feeling mistrustful, worn out, ready to give it up. When you can leave the past behind and push onward, you can make it throught.
To be honest, I can’t complain — there are people who have it a lot worse than I do. People who can’t work from home, people who can’t work from home and need to find childcare because schools are closed, people who are actually sick. I still feel it like an itchy shirt. There’s a world of difference between choosing not to go out, and not being able to for fear of getting sick or putting others in jeopardy.
If there’s a positive side to this, it’s given me time to write here, finish some paid writing, paint, pursue a few new ideas, and work on learning the Tarot of Marseilles and Ogham divination.
On the flip side, it’s tempting to do a lot of divination. As anyone who habitually reads tarot, runes, or other oracles can tell you, doing tarot spread after tarot spread is an easy way to trip yourself up.
Though I was very tempted to pull out all of the stops and do a full, complete-deck spread, I figured it was better to stick to just one card for this week. (After doing a success reading, and a career reading, and a creativity reading, and a love reading, and experimenting with a Lenormand spread, and…)
Using The Tarot de Maria Celia, I drew the Cavalier d’Épée — the Knight of Swords.
Interestingly, the last time I drew him, it was a time that was fairly similar to this. Though the health challenges causing my isolation aren’t my own this time around, I can feel the same sense of waiting and agitation. In The Crow Tarot, the Knight of Swords points to an energetic start to a new project. In the Marseilles Tarot, the sentiment is similar — he is the feeling of obsession we get when we have a new idea, when we’re so fixated on the fresh and exciting that it seems like nothing can go wrong.
On the positive side, his energy, determination, and enthusiasm make it easy to succeed. On the negative side, they also make it very easy to ignore the challenges in the way of that success. It may even be tempting to ignore the protestations of other people who know better, and ignore the needs of others in the attempt to chase that success.
Sometimes, when I get wrapped up in a project, I do forget things. I might not eat, might not drink enough, might even forget to sleep until the middle of the night. These things aren’t just harmful for me, though — they’re also a sign of neglecting my relationship. If I’m too busy to eat, I’m too busy for meals with my partner. If I’m up too late, he’s up too late because he has trouble sleeping without me.
The Cavalier d’Épée is a warning — ride the tide of optimism, but don’t let it flatten everything else.
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So, I’ve been working on learning a new system of divination — Ogham staves. I used them for this week’s divination, and I’ve been trying to see where else I can incorporate them into my practice.
Many types of wood have their own specific magical and spiritual properties, so choosing a set took me awhile. I also prefer to find tools that are “neutral,” in an energetic sense; I don’t like using wood that’s been cut down, if I can help it. Windfall and reclaimed woods are more my jam.
I love the size and shape — a lot of the other staves I looked at were thinner and more rounded, which I thought might make it more difficult for me to draw them the way I’d like to. The texture is nice, too, with the velvety-softness of sea-tumbled wood. They’re also a very good weight, neither too light to keep from blowing away outdoors, nor too heavy to carry comfortably in a purse or crane bag.
I keep them in a lovely crocheted pouch by Neeedles. It’s just the right size, and gorgeous colors. The crochet is nice and tight, too, so I’m not worried about the staves stretching holes in the stitches and slipping out. At about $15, it was a very reasonable price for a handmade bag, and the craftspersonship is really, really nice. I’m considering getting more of them for my other supplies, they’d be great for carrying a few stones, vials of herbs, and tealights for mobile ritual-doing.
Now I just have to learn the meanings. Fortunately, I have a lot of opportunity to practice!
ADF-structured rituals have an oracle portion that gives us an opportunity to know how our offerings were received, know which blessings we are receiving in turn, and get messages from the spirits we work with. I’ve always used tarot for this, but I’ve been curious about branching out into journeying, geomancy, and other means of divination.
All of this is to say that, for my reading this week, I didn’t pull a card at all.
I’ve been trying to learn to divine using Ogham staves. It’s more than a little challenging for me — memorization isn’t my strong suit (to put it mildly), and the Ogham alphabet is visually very simple. That means that, somewhat like my experience with the Tarot of Marseilles, there isn’t a whole lot for me to go on. Unlike the ToM, however, Ogham letters don’t have suits or numerical cycles on their side, which makes it even more difficult.
My best bet? Lots of practice. There are far fewer Ogham letters than there are tarot cards, so I’m bound to absorb some of it eventually.
This week, I drew two staves. Since I can’t exactly shuffle wood, I placed them face down, mixed them up, and drew them the way I would a tarot card: I moved my receptive hand over the pieces, and waited for the little energetic “tug” that led me to the right ones.
I drew Elder (Ruis) and Willow (Saille).
Elder stands for the passing of an old cycle. This can be something that is due to pass, or something that we want to hold onto. The elder tree has a lot of connections to death and rebirth, so it’s a reminder that the only constant is change.
Willow stands for balance and equilibrium. In some sources I’ve read, it also stands for cycles, learning, and taking time to accumulate knowledge before acting.
I’ve experienced a lot of synchronicity with regards to both of these things, just in the past two or three days alone. It’s a supermoon in Virgo. This afternoon, I was listening to a webinar about living as a highly sensitive person (which, for me, is pretty much shorthand for “on the verge of a nervous meltdown basically always”), and Dr. Christine Page was giving a talk about inviting change in order to quit burning yourself out and making yourself sick. I mean, as I was typing this, I had to pause because I got an alert on my phone. It was an email: “Tips for Working With Change,” from Sharon Ramel.
It’s spring, the birds are singing, the weather’s warming, the sap is starting to run. The trees are still bare, but there are plenty of little signs that the soil’s beginning to wake up. I can’t say that I know exactly what changes the willow and the elder and pointing to, but I can’t help but look forward to them.
This week, I wanted to try something a little different.
Not long ago, I picked up a copy of the absolutely beautiful Tarot de Maria Celia, a deck based on the Tarot of Marseilles, illustrated by Lynyrd-Jym Narciso. The ToM is a bit different from conventional Rider-Waite-Smith-based decks, in that the pip cards aren’t illustrated — they’re much more like a regular deck of playing cards. The meanings of the pip cards also vary a little, with their own subtleties and nuances.
Learning to interpret them has been a bit of a challenge. I’m not a fan of rote memorization, but pip cards that don’t have actual scenes on them don’t leave you nearly as much to go on. That has its advantages, but can make things a little intimidating.
So, for this week’s reading, I settled on an easy three card spread. Even without artwork to read into, I figured three cards would give me enough information to build something from.
I drew the II de Bâtons (Wands), the XIIII de Deniers (Pentacles or Coins), and the XIII d’Épées (Swords).
Twos are the continuation of the beginnings indicated by the Aces. As a duality, they can represent two sides of a situation, or a decision of some sort. Two is a pair, and the fertile, creative energy between them.
As a decision, the Two of Wands represents the shift from the physical to the creative. It’s at the very beginning of the Wands cycle, so it also represents the opportunity to broaden your horizons. If the Ace represents the beginning and the choice of a goal, the Two is the next step: planning in order to make it a reality.
Nines are the completion of their respective cycle. As in other decks, Deniers represent material wealth and physical comforts. The Nine of Pentacles here is a point of freedom and self-governance. It stands in contrast to the Two — it’s nearing the end, knowing the plan, and and understanding that self-discipline and follow through are what got you here.
The Eight of Swords is self-imposed restriction. It is near the end of the cycle, but notably not there yet — there’s an obstacle in the way, and it’s you. Use too much caution, spend too much time devoted to making the right decision, and no decision will be made. At the same time, it’s a good idea not to make any major decisions until you are able to recognize that your entire decision making process has been defined by limits you’ve set for yourself. It’s choice fatigue, the paralysis of indecision, the trouble with Katy Make Sure.
I feel pretty called out.
We are comfortable. I’m at the very beginning of some creative plans, working out the kinks and deciding how to progress. At the same time, because I’m at a point where I’m comfortable, there’s a not-insignificant part of me going, “Now what?”
Growing up poor, much of my thinking was dominated by material concerns. I was presented with many, many different incarnations of the idea that if I just had this thing, I could be that person, and they are better than I am. It was kind of a huge relief when “shabby chic,” thrift-store clothes, capsule wardrobes, and mason jars became trendy, because that’s all stuff I had anyway, just out of poverty reasons.
I’m freer now. I’m more autonomous now. I spent a lot of time pursuing goals that lined up with an idea of success that I didn’t choose for myself, and now that I’ve attained many of them, what now?
It’s a scary feeling. A sort of unsettling is-this-it feeling. Is it just this, and more of this, and then eventually we die? How do I shake the limitations of traditional markers of success?
Four things have made me ecstatically happy recently:
Finding pants that fit. (I’m a 2 now, and a Petite. If I accept this, finding the right size will be much harder, but I also won’t look like I’m wearing my partner’s pants.)
My partner surprised me with a gift. (Otter socks, a card, and a stuffed otter. His name is Philippe.)
I started a painting. (Three guesses what it’s of, and the first two don’t count.)