A a full time professional reader, I admit, I can get mighty pedantic about things. Splitting tarot hairs with colleagues is a love of mine and I am no stranger to debating the finer points of tarot and tarot readings.
Like any reader, I also have my pet peeves and as my 2nd grade report card mentioned, "Jenna is opinionated." So here I share with you, dear reader, my opinions about white washing tarot specifically as it pertains to the Death card.
It is very common in tarot books, among tarot readers to say as soon as the Death card is cast, "Oh, yeah this is Death... but actually it really just means Transformation!" Quick to lessen the blow of the message of death, we gloss over the pain, heartache, hard reality that is the Death card and I think when we do this we are disrespecting the energy, intent and message that this card may have for us.
It is not uncommon to find tarot decks that have completely vanquished Death forever from our tarot shores, rewriting the card to mean Transformation or Phoenix Rising, "Don't worry about any of that Death business because you will rise from the ashes, girlfriend!!" Doreen Virtue's Fairy and Angel decks have done away from the messiness of Death altogether--she renamed them as Release.
The only way I actually knew she was indeed replacing the Death card with Release is because she kept the number placement that is traditional for Death: number 13. It is no coincidence that Death is in the 13th place for 13 has long been viewed as a bad luck number throughout Europe for centuries. If Death actually means Transformation or Release and was so very positive, why would it hold the 13th position?
I will say, however, that she does use Azreal who is the angel of Death, but this is done in the kindest most white washed way possible.
The emphasis here is again, on moving on. But I argue that this is not the intent of Death. The message of Death is endings, not new beginnings.
Tarot comes out of a time where 2 out of 3 children died, if someone lived to 50 that was considered a ripe elder age. There was disease, accidents, superstition and a lack of hygiene awareness or even what we would consider basic medical knowledge. Death was as close to the midaevil person as was life, and it was because of Death's intimate association with their lives that they felt the business of living more keenly. Death is a part of life, death hurts, death sucks, death is sad and death comes for everyone. This is the message of the Death card. It is a card of endings, not beginnings.
We modern humans with our technology and vaccines and seatbelts, we have done a great job distancing ourselves from Death as much as possible. Unlike our earlier ancestors however, we no longer dress the bodies of our dead, we rarely perform the service of burying our own.
Death has become sanitized, de-ritualized, and death only comes to the unlucky or aged. In our quickness to leave Death behind, we also wish to forget what he brings and the thought of Death makes us so uncomfortable we would just rather pretend he didn't exist at all.
In client sessions, I find Death to play the role of a hard stop. This relationship is ending. That job is done. That person is passing away. Death does not mince words, does not white wash its message but its message, being completely honest, is actually a kindness.
Often clients come see me when all the easy options are gone and all that is left are hard choices. Clients also see me when their higher self knows something is going to end, but their ego is still looking for some possible way to turn aside whatever it is they do not want to endure. Death is the loud and insistent voice, loud enough to be heard over the din of ego and self delusion, to prepare oneself for an ending. Perhaps that ending is not redeemed by transformation, perhaps it is just an ending...and that is sometimes all we get. Because that is life, and life is confoundingly both tragic and miraculous at the same time.
Now, I think there is a better card that speaks to Transformation, and that is Judgement. I never understood why Death was the card chosen to speak to the act of Transformation when in all honesty, Judgement does a much better job of holding that archetype. So let us allow the cards to speak and stop rewriting what they are. If tarot means to talk about transformation and moving onto new pastures then we must trust that tarot will reveal them (Judgement or 8 of Cups as an example). But when tarot shows us the Death card, it means death.
This... Ladies and Gentlemen...is what Transformation and Release look like.
Let us allow the hard work of seeing what is be what is. It is always the difficult message, the hard yet honest note from the Universe that circumvents our ego, allows us to see clearly without pride or defense, and accept gracefully what is.
Happy April Fools' Day!
April Fools has deep historical origins, as anything of Archetype does, replaying, recycling, and rebirthing throughout human society, cultures and migration for as long as we can find evidence for them. The Fool is particularly powerful in its archetype on human consciousness, so much so that our Fool gets his very own day each April first.
April Fool's day can be reasonably found in historical articles from the middle ages throughout Europe, the day has shifted from late March to April first but the sentiment is similar, Here is what we know for sure:
In 1508, French poet Eloy d'Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally "April fish"), a possible reference to the holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on 1 April. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as "Fooles holy day", the first British reference. On 1 April 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to "see the Lions washed". (Wiki)
Even earlier, ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated the feast of Hilaria (doesn't that sound like so much fun?!) Celebrated on March 25th, possibly along with the start of spring to honor Cybel, So it seems that what was once a joyful noise of people acting probably pretty silly, filled with frisky spring fever eventually morphed into the April's Fools day pranking that exists today.
In tarot, the Fool's meaning has shifted over the centuries. Originally, the Fool was literally a fool, a silly or dumb man or a man acting stupid for the comedic enjoyment of others. Today, the Fool denotes more of a letting go of control, self-consciousness and embracing everything that life has to offer. The fool's appearance in a reading is a serious call to let go of the reigns and let the Universe provide. Being mindless and spirit-full.
Less in the western cultures anymore, but in many others, the Fool does act as a spiritual Clown. A silly shaman that through laughter of himself and others, making that joyful noise we get closer to God. I think it is deeply sad that our modern life has only one little tiny april fools prank vestige of what is a very powerful and wise archetype, the Fool.
For example, in Hopi tradition, there is the Heyoka, the sacred clown is still very much activated in this culture:
Principally, the heyókȟa functions both as a mirror and a teacher, using extreme behaviors to mirror others, thereby forcing them to examine their own doubts, fears, hatreds, and weaknesses. heyókȟa also have the power to heal emotional pain; such power comes from the experience of shame — they sing of shameful events in their lives, beg for food, and live as clowns.
They provoke laughter in distressing situations of despair and provoke fear and chaos when people feel complacent and overly secure, to keep them from taking themselves too seriously or believing they are more powerful than they are. (wiki)
So how can you embrace the call of the Fool today?
Here are some ideas:
*Go to a Comedy show,
*Sign up for Laughter Yoga (truly, the Fool is alive and well among this merry troupe!)
*When was the last time you really laughed at yourself?
*Do something silly, meaningless, joyful, even 'dumb', who cares whose watching?
*Turn off your GPS, and guess a new route home today from work, remember what it feels like 'not to know' be comfortable with that ambiguity, look at a beautiful new place you've never seen before in the process.
*Eat ice cream for lunch.
*Sing loudly with the windows down
*Wear mismatching socks or a T shirt inside out or backwards
*Stop taking yourself so seriously, darlin, the Sacred Fool has come to play today!
2016 is a Hermit Year
Using tarot numerology, we can easily assign an archetype to the upcoming year, 2016 all added up in a flash gives us 9 which corresponds to the Hermit. While individual numerology will vary, this planetary number is like a large picture energetic weather pattern for the year.
Understanding the hermit will helps us understand and perhaps negotiate better with the forces saturating all the nations of earth. I for one, am hoping that the hermit's energetic need for reflection will impact the world's stage in terms of conflicts as well as home grown terror. 2015 was an 8 year, a Strength year which we saw in many countries saying things like, "No I am stronger than YOU are, here I am going to shoot down YOUR plane!"
Hopefully, the hermit's calmer head and keener sense will reign on the world stage in 2016.
In client readings, the hermit ranks right below Death and the Devil for the 'least wanted card' award. Unfairly so, in my opinion, for the topical understanding that the hermit will mean loneliness, singlehood, sweatpants and long nights with a mid-priced merlot is vastly incorrect.
In the majority of hermit imagery, the hermit is standing with his or her lamp, shining out in the forested darkness. The hermit is not curled up in a fetal ball of lonely agony with Bon Iver on repeat, the light of an Iphone clutched in hand.
The hermit is standing with his lamp outstretched; is he shining that lamp for himself, or is he shining the way for someone else? Is the lamp really for him, who knows the dark forest so well or to help another soul who needs to simply rest? In most hermit imagery the hermit is also standing: in search, or in mid-stride; he is an active figure in the landscape; while the word suggests someone passive the imagery illustrates something entirely different.
So I asked a group of fellow tarot readers, what is your favorite Hermit image, and why?
Altogether, here were the themes that emerged from their responses:
Below, in their own words, are some of the pictures as well as thoughts as to why they loved that particular Hermit, the choices are diverse and the reasons varied but in no instance do we see knee jerk reactions to the hermit to depict lonely as suffering or alone in withdrawal as a negative.
If we notice this Hermit and all the others, the Hermit is not staring into the lamp, he is not transfixed by it, he is using the light to shine out into the darkness, he is looking for something, or someone. His focus is almost always outward, actually. Certainly not the actions of a person who has totally withdrawn in complete isolation and sadness.
This hermit is also dynamic, one of the Hermit's main themes is study and learning and this imagery captures that idea, what do you need to hone, to make clear, to master?
This image is so interesting to me, the turtle is not physically able to have put the lit lamp on his shell, so who did? Who is with him, sitting companionably in his light? Or did they light the lamp for Turtle and leave? This image creates a cognitive dissonance between the withdrawal of the turtle (a fear or stress reaction) and the warm glow of the lamp. Our introvert above felt comforted by the imagery of the card, you can just be yourself.
This card especially picks up the shamanistic undernotes of the Hermit, that he is somehow closer to nature, in the quiet able to hear the moods and sounds of the animals and from there to gain wisdom that our busy world left behind. In this, the Hermit acts as bridge, necessary, pertinent, without which we as a race are completely lost.
Again, we return to the light, what is the nature of the lamp, the nature of the light, is it the heart of Hermit?
I included this because of the modern focus on perhaps too much withdrawal, a Hermit that is not spiritual in focus, again, what is a Hermit without his lamp?
Even in the 'scariest' image, easily the Deviant Moon's hermit, we hear Jennifer's quote that he is, 'withdrawing from the world for his own learning and purpose.' The main take away is that when we draw a Hermit card:
The withdrawal is a voluntary one.
You do not have to take on the mantle of the hermit if you do not want to.
My own personal favorite image of the Hermit if the 'Kung Fu Master' archetype. He left the village on purpose, to hone his craft and now that he has mastered his skills people come to him. He meets those he wishes to help on his terms.
If we view the role the Hermit through the eyes of a love reading, this is fabulous, actually! Through a short stint of getting clear of "your junk" you then position yourself to pick and choose from those who seek YOU out.
"The Hermit figure is removed on the whole from the image, which focuses on the holding of the lamp as its main design element. It reminds me that the Hermit is not following anyone, not even himself, he has walked the path for long enough to become the path. In this case, he is adjunct to the light itself, which is the principle of the card; return to your own light and carry it."--Marcus Katz
The emphasis is not on the withdrawal, even though the card is called the Hermit, the image is not focused on his hermitude, but in fact is focused on the light. And what does light do? Light carries, light illuminates, light gets noticed, light is bright.
When we as readers and clients see the Hermit in a future state position, it can be read as, "You will be alone during x time."
I feel that Hermit is in fact already defining a known position, the act of being a hermit has happened. What is the future state is the search with the lamp.
(The Hermit is NOT 8 of Cups. The Hermit is NOT the Hanged Man though people often read him that way especially in love and relationship readings which I think is a huge mistake)
When the Hermit appears he is defining the change to the light. In most pictures of the Hermit, he is walking forward, carrying the lamp in front of him. The action is forward moving with the light preceding him.
The Hermit's appearance in a reading, especially in a romantic reading, is not as much "you are going to be alone" but rather-- you are moving to the light, the truth of what you need and that is shining. Something (or someone) is being called to you, and you in your work and wisdom... you get to choose.
2016 calls for the entire world to choose, are we going to choose peace, will we light our lamps and search for the hard answers? Will we allow calmer, wiser heads to speak? We need more silence, more thought, more reservation, more detachment from the fires of passionate gun slinging.
As we face 2016 embrace the Hermit's energy in your own life by lighting your lamp and walking your path, look fearlessly in the dark corners.
Do The Work
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