Friday, 25 July 2014

Green Man

Now this is an interesting card we have drawn today from Wicca Deck (Morningstar 2014). The green man image is depicted on an oak tree (you can see it has acorns on it), and carved into the tree is a door with runes around the frame. To be honest, I don't think these carry any meaning, which is a shame. I think it's purely decorative -- too bad. If any rune experts know better, do let me know!

In front of the door is a glowing orb wrapped round by a snake, which reminds me of the orphic egg.  Just outside its glow are some little flowering plants that might be some sort of lily. In the background we see a buck deer rearing up on its hind legs.
The card obviously speaks of masculine energy, creation and fertility. But who is the Green Man?

Who is the Green Man?*
As with many neopagan properties, the Green Man has been appropriated and a new history created. He is not an ancient remnant of a horned-god-and-earth-mother worshiping pagan faith. (Though I see absolutely no reason why he can't represent those natural masculine energies now, as he does to the pagan community). Actually the Green Man appeared in churches from the 11th century as part of the Christian visual iconography and declined after the Reformation period when the visual culture of medieval Christianity collapsed. He enjoyed a comeback in the 19th century as part of the Gothic Revival and appetite for medieval things. He was later appropriated to represent 'the archetype of our oneness with the earth' and embraced as such in counter-culture movements.

Modern study of the Green Man began in the 1930s with folklorist Julia Somerset, Lady Raglan. Influenced (as so many folklorists of the time were) by Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough, and by Margaret Murray's The Witch Cult in Western Europe, she came up with the notion that the Green Man was a remnant of pagan tree worship and spring sacrifice. But studies of pre-Christian religion in Britain have failed to find green men and they were not deities of classic pantheon. These images were not carved into Christian churches as a remnant of ancient pagan faith, but by devout Christian craftsmen.

Green men, being neither green nor always men, started as small drawings in the margins of Christian books in the 11th and 12th centuries. Their profuse tangled branches suggest an origin in the interlaced ornament of Saxon and Celtic art. Green men on churches, therefore, derived from an artistic culture rather than popular custom, as images in books were an important source of inspiration for patrons of churches. Sources for many motifs in churches and cathedrals have been traced to English manuscript illuminations, in particular English psalters of the 12th century. If the carvings are studied through the ages, the Green Man moves from a type of medieval demon to a Renaissance decoration, then into the Gothic revival period where they become mere badges of 'authentic' medieval style. The post-Industrial Revolution yearning for a more natural past informs recent transformation of the Green Man from an image rooted in medieval Christianity to the one that now, to some, stands for humanity's relationship with nature.

The Cards
Anyway, all that aside, the Green Man has its own meaning now, and certainly its own meaning in the Wicca Deck, which no medieval Christian mind would have derived from it, but which modern pagans do, and that is the idea of oneness with nature, abundance, fertility and growth.
In a draw, this card could suggest returning to simple things, ecological concerns, oneness with nature, natural growth processes, going with the natural flow, and so on.

The supporting card from the tarot deck is 6 of Swords. The card's meaning of journey, travel, exploration or overcoming difficulties takes on resonance in light of the history of the Green Man. If we take the pagan meaning of the Green Man as growth or ecological concerns, we can see 6 of Swords supporting us as we make a change from damage or hurt that may have been sustained (either personally or to the environment) and toward better times. (Though I'm really not sure how the huntress and hounds fit into that!)

Some things to think about today:

How is fertility and abundance playing itself out in your life right now?
When was the last time you went outside and enjoyed nature?
What can you do today to help the environment?
What new, fresh direction can you turn yourself toward?

*Hayman, Richard. 'Ballad of the Green Man'  History Today. April 2010. 37-44.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Raise your candle high

This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine...
Let it shine, let it shine
I'm gonna let it shine
Oh yeah

If you've been following the blog this week, you've done a lot of work already. Good for you! We've used the Wicca Deck (Morningstar 2014) and the Old English Tarot (Kneen 1997) to consider taking action toward our goals and setting boundaries in our self-talk and relationships. This is HUGE work and not something that can be completed in one day! These are issues that we come back to again and again. Personal growth starts with our first breath and doesn't end until our last. That's the nature of the game.

The card is all about letting our little light shine. It's time we said good-bye to concealing or making little of our talents and ideas. That's what the Bible calls hiding our light under a bushel -- how long will a candle burn if a bushel basket is turned over it? Not only will the candle soon be snuffed out, but while it does burn, no one will be able to see the light, and so what purpose has it even served? The same is true of us. We all have talents and skills to offer to the world. Not to do so is to let ourselves go to waste. We are meant to show forth our talents and skills and ideas, to offer freely to the world all that we have to give it. Like the peacock in the card, we should not be afraid to offer our beauty and our radiance to the world.

Memento mori

In support of this oracle card, we've drawn the tarot card Death.  Usually we see this card as symbol of an ending, usually a painful ending, that ultimately leads to renewal. But there is another meaning to the Death card that is often overlooked: memento mori. It's a Latin phrase that means: 'Remember you will die.'

You've got a light inside you. You have so many beautiful talents and abilities, natural tendencies, propensity to help and love and nurture. Are you allowing those beautiful aspects of yourself shine out and bless the world? Why not? Why are you waiting? Each day you are less than your radiant beautiful self is one day gone from your life when you could have contributed to the happiness and joy and peace of others. Don't be shy! Don't be modest! Don't hold back! You can bask in your own warmth and radiance as well. The Death card reminds us -- we only get a finite number of days to enjoy this.

I just thought of a song. You know of course that the word 'Phildelphia' means 'Brotherly Love', right? Greek 'philia' means 'altruistic love' and 'adelphos' means 'brother, fellow, belonging to the same people, countryman'. Well, I just thought of the song 'Philadelphia Freedom' by Elton John --

Oh Philadelphia freedom, I love you, shine on me
Shine a light, shine a light
Shine a light, won't you shine a light
Philadelphia freedom - I love you , yes I do!

Hey, we are part of this big world of fellow human beings, and we all should be shining our lights for as long as they last, shine our lights for each other.

I remembered another one! Do you remember Melanie and a song called 'Lay Down (Candle in the Rain)'?

So raise your candles high!
Cause if you don't we could stay black against the night.
Oh, raise them higher again
Cause if you do we could stay dry against the rain! 

(Melanie says, 'I wasn't really a hippie. I was more of just an oddball.' LOL)

 How are you going to let your light shine today? It doesn't have to be something huge. Watch for it today. When you feel like saying or doing something but feel yourself holding back--don't hold back. Go on and shoot that ray of love out into the world.

Monday, 21 July 2014

We've got the power and we've got some teaching to do

Today's draw from Wicca Deck (Morningstar 2014) and Old English Tarot (Kneen 1997) continues giving us messages about taking our personal power. Good!

In today's card we see the Athame, or knife, a Wiccan tool, also used in witchcraft, Druidry and other earth-based spiritual traditions. It's a beautiful image. The hand clutching the athame rises through rings of air (athame is the symbol of the element Air, direction east), and reaches up into the starry night sky where a mystical spiral sun burns up the night, a crescent moon watching from above. What an amazing scene.

The card is called Commander of Power. In practice, the athame is ritually used much like a wand, to direct energy. In the Wicca Deck, it takes on more authority, possibly because it is associated with masculine energy. (It is a phallic symbol in Wiccan ceremonies, where it is ritually plunged into the chalice, a female symbol). The card represents a commanding presence, a strong sense of self, and being in charge of one's life. A blade cuts through things, and so this image represents healthy boundaries. Now, that's the real fire!

And so that leads us to our supporting card for the day, King of Cups. Another masculine card, another symbol of mastery. This card, from Old English Tarot, features the king on his throne, surrounded by clusters of grapes. (Many Cups cards in this deck feature grape clusters). The card shows us where we need to set boundaries in order to become Commander of Power in our own lives--our emotions and our relationships.

Maya Angelou said that we teach people how to treat us. We lead them by example, did you know that? The way we treat ourselves and they way we let them treat us -- that's the precedent we create.

Time to set some boundaries then, and the place to start is with ourselves.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I put myself down in front of others (or even just to myself)?
  • Do I take the blame for things onto myself? 
  • Do I put myself last? 
  • Do I think other people deserve better than I deserve?

Now you know you need to use your Athame to cut out that behaviour. Set a boundary with yourself -- STOP belittling yourself, labelling yourself, blaming yourself, failing to prioritise yourself and feeling undeserving! Instead:

  • Compliment yourself on something -- anything! And instead of putting yourself down in conversations, catch yourself before you speak and instead, use that breath you drew to pay a compliment to the person you're talking to (or about the person you're talking about. You heard me!)
  • Think logically when things go wrong. Could you really have 'caused' what happened? Even if you were actually at fault, can you go back and do it over? And in 100 years, will anyone care? Let it go!
  • Do at least one thing today that is just for you--and don't wait until everyone else in the house is finally in bed. Tell them they can wait and go do something for yourself. You're teaching them how to treat you, remember?
  • Read this out loud right now - 'I am a precious child of the universe and I deserve every blessing it can offer.'

You've given yourself some thought, now let's look at others. Please ask yourself: 

  • Am I in any relationships in which I feel powerless?
  • What boundaries do I need in order to feel more empowered?
  • How can I do so in a way that is respectful toward the humanity of the person and of myself? 
  • What is one boundary-setting action I can take today? 

Take up that Athame of Power and look after yourself, lovelies. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Dismiss List - Dismissing lethargy

Crystal Tarot,  Permutt 
'In what ways are we sabotaging ourselves, and how can we extricate ourselves from the mires of self-indulgence?'

Jenna at Queen of Wands Tarot offers a useful exercise, a Dismiss List for Summer Solstice. She's used the second half of the major arcana to create sentences for you to finish to help you contemplate things in your life that no longer serve. As the daylight wanes (each day getting shorter and each night longer) for the rest of the year, it is a good time to begin the process of releasing things in our lives as well. Let these things 'wane' in harmony with the waning of daylight. With all credit to Jenna, I am working these prompts here, one entry each Sunday for major arcana 11-21. I encourage you to think about your own Dismiss List. Why not start one today? 

Last week it was Temperance. This week it's the Devil. 

I dismiss temptations (habits) by being determined to...

--practice yoga daily

--learn about strategies for achieving my goals
--work daily on my personal projects

I have flirted with yoga for many years, but never really fully devoted myself to making a study of the 8 limbs of yoga and attempting to practice yoga (real yoga, not just poses on the mat, but 24/7 yoga) in my daily life. I am learning. Pleased to say that my husband and I began a Year-and-a-Day Yoga Commitment on 12 May 2014. We have practised asanas all but 7 days since that date. We have practised daily meditation in the morning (in addition to asana practice, which includes short meditation segments) since 7 July. So I feel my yoga practice has begun at last after so many years of not quite getting started.

We've also been reading an excellent book, Bringing Yoga to Life, by Donna Farhi. I read it out loud during our hour-long commute to work (we both work for the same employer, though in different departments). This is a wonderful explanation of all aspects of yoga and how it applies to real life -- it really is NOT about putting your foot behind your head!

I've also been doing some research and working on a 'to do' list to help move me toward my goals. So you will probably be seeing some changes around here. I hope you like them! So here I am releasing inertia and the fear of being overwhelmed by too many options...

And finally, I release the tendency to try to do everything in one mad session and then let it all lie fallow for weeks or months. I set the intention to work a bit on my various personal projects every single day. Progress may be made in increments invisible to the naked eye -- but that will make reaching the goal seem all the more like magic. Which is fun!

What are you putting on your Dismiss List for the week?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Do, or do not. There is no spell more powerful than that.

Today's card comes from The Wicca Deck by Sally Morningstar (Connections Publishing 2014), an oracle made up of cards depicting tools and concepts of Wicca. Illustrations are by Danuta Mayer. I'll be drawing all week from this pack, along with supporting tarot cards from Old English Tarot by Maggie Kneen (US Games 1997).

The card shows a Wand, the instrument used by Wiccans and many traditions to focus and direct power. Thus the Wand is given the key word 'Intention.' The wand in the image has clear crystal quartz points on either end, embellished with copper. There is a band of bronze or copper decorated with  a pentacle clamped around it. And carved into the wood we see the sigil 'sowilo', which stands for the sun, wholeness, success. Little chains attached to the wand lead to a small goddess charm and  three beads with a raven or crow feather, no doubt the three beads stand for maid, mother and crone.

This card certainly portends good things, but also brings the message -- good things come to those with clear intent and strong will. Not a vague wish, but a definite, focused intention.

So far so good. We all have intentions, but what comes next?  To see how the tarot would support this card, I shuffled and drew from Old English Tarot and received 8 of Batons (also known as 8 of Wands). And this is just the perfect support for our oracle card of the day! This card shows us the backbone of intent -- action. You can send all the intentions into the universe you want, but if you do not then take action, you are very unlikely to see any manifestation of your will.

'What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.' ~ James 2:14-17

Every witch or spellcaster will tell you the same. Cast your spell, then do the work. The Buddhist and Hindu will tell you, do your meditation, then do the work.

'Those who believe and do good works, their Lord guides them by their faith. Rivers will flow beneath them in the Gardens of Delight.' ~ Quran 10:9

This is a universal principle that cannot be escaped. It's common sense. If you want something, wanting is not enough. Yes, you may create a ripple of energy in the fabric of the universe. But if you want it to materialise, you are going to have to take action.

The little figures in the 8 of Batons are working very hard in the field, bending their backs again and again in the hot sun, doing repetitive labour. But what great rewards this work reaps! Bread for the winter. Fodder for the cattle. A roof for their homes. Fuel for the fire. Every stalk of that harvest must be collected and it will be put to good use. Their intention of surviving the winter will materialise.

The card gives a good idea of the kind of tasks we will likely have to do to manifest our intentions -- work that we may not want to do, that is not particularly fun to do, but that step-by-step will lead to the results we want. You don't have to go fast, but you do have to be organised and expeditious. Also tolerant and patient.

So here's your work for today. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want? What do I really want? Write it down and be very specific. 
  • What do I need to do to get where I want? List the actions.

Not sure how to get there? No problem:

  • If you don't know exactly how to get to where you want, make a list of tasks that lead in the right direction. 
  • If you don't know any tasks that lead in that direction, make a list of questions because it's time to gather information.
  • Now choose one task (or one question) and do it (or ask it) today.  It doesn't matter how small that action may seem in the face of your big goal. Trust in your intention and do it.

Now you've done that task, sit back and -- wow! You did it. You're making magic happen. Well done! Congratulate yourself for taking that step.

Wait -- did I just hear you say, 'But I have so far to go and I'm not really clear yet how to get to my dream?' Well, stop that! Look at the next task on your list. Keep focused, keep acting, keep gathering in that wheat, just like in the card. You can do it. You can! 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Two to tango - but who keeps moving the loo roll?

That is one hell of a thigh on that woman in this, our last card of the week from Delphine Sutherland's Oracle of Proverbs (2013), 'It takes two to tango.'

I've always heard this phrase used to remind someone that whenever there's an argument, it's not just the fault of one person. Someone has to argue back. If there is discord, if there is trouble -- it takes two to tango.

The tango itself is a dance of extreme tension. There is attraction to the point of violence, a very serious dance. You never, ever see a smile in a tango. There is tension without release in a tango, and this could be compared to two people who just can't get along, but for some perverse reason, they keep stringing out the conflict. In this way, it takes two to tango. If one or the other stepped back, out of the spell, and said, 'Wait, this is stupid. Don't we look silly though. all this kicking and pulling faces!' -- then the whole nebulous thing would fall apart. In this sense, the phrase means, if you don't participate in this, the conflict (or tension, or whatever it is) will just disappear. (Admittedly the frisson of day to day conflict is not as fun as foreplay, which is what the tango patently represents. BUT, tension is tension I guess.)

Delphine's LWB suggests another meaning for the phrase: 'Relationships matter. Real love comes when we begin to accept one another totally.' So, in this interpretation, 'It takes two to tango' means we have to work with each other to perform the complex and intricate machinations of a successful relationship, just like the dancers must be in sync to avoid kicking the bejeebers of our each other's shins. (And sometimes marriage is a little bit like shin kicking contest! ha ha)

But I do have to admit, I see the actual tango as being more about the earliest throes of sexual tension, and less about showing patience the 112th time you've walked in the bathroom to find the toilet roll is turned round the wrong way again. No matter who starts the argument about it, you don't have to holler back, though -- 'cause it takes two to tango!

So, my lovelies? What kind of tango have you been dancing lately? Do you want to carry on?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Take good care of yourself today

Oracle of Proverbs, Delphi Sutherland 2013 
Today's card from Oracle of Proverbs reminds me to eat well today. It also tells me that simple good habits lead to long term health and well-being.

In other words, taking simple steps today can help make things better for me in the future.

I like this card; it's cheery; the kids look like they're having fun. They've got all those apples to put in the cellar and have all winter... To store apples for winter, you carefully select a thick-skinned variety, and choose the ones that have no bruises on them at all. Wrap them in newspaper or brown paper and carefully place them in a basket or box, and store them in a cool dark place where they will not freeze and where they won't get jostled or bothered. The apples will last 3 or 4 months--the whole of winter. Those apples with blemishes or bruises can be made into apple sauce, apple butter, or apple pie filling, or of course eaten raw or baked and eaten today. :)  Do you put that much thought into apples, or do you just go to the market and buy a couple when the mood strikes?

The point is, knowing what to do with your harvest is an important part of setting yourself up for a safe and happy future. You don't have to eat ALL your apples today, and you don't have to do without and hoard them for tomorrow. You certainly don't have to get just one apple at a time and hope that tomorrow you can find the next one, somehow some way. (You could do it that way, but you don't have to!).

A little moderation today, a little planning for tomorrow, a little remembering to take care of yourself today, a little remembering to spare some thought for your future -- that's the key.

And you thought this saying had something to do with vitamins and fibre intake!