Balancing Movement with Quietness

In the tarot, the Death card can have many meanings. The first one is death, obviously. Something or someone is going to die. Usually it’s something that dies, so you can lay that particular image down to rest. In fact, in my practice, I’ve foreseen actual physical deaths more often with other cards of the tarot (like the Hermit or the Chariot) than with the Death card. And well, when I say something, I mean everything that is something: a cycle in life that ends; a relationship; work, etc. And then, well… there’re all those meanings that usually come up in books about changes and transformations… But between you and me, since no one else is reading this, all of these meanings are just for those who can’t accept death at face value.

My relationship with Death is just like that. I have no problems accepting that someone dies and I usually deal with that very well, just when I start thinking about my own death, everything changes and what was rational becomes emotional. The whole idea that death is just part of life and that everything has an end I was brought under gets cut down and I find myself looking into the abyss, this long and dark abyss wondering what the hell is going to happen to me. Death frightens me, because I love having a life and the idea of loosing it is just enough to scare the shit out of me..

It’s also interesting how we keep using the word “loosing” when talking about death. There’s never any mention of loss in the tarot books. And yet, we loose. We loose our lives and the company of others. We loose things in us that we cared about. Even when we didn’t do that much to keep those things near to us, death still acts as a painful reminder of what was once there. There is loosing and there is protecting those whom we might think are incapable to deal with the issue of death. Like children, who are often told not that someone has died, but that that someone has left. ‘Gone to God’, ‘gone to heaven and became a star’, ‘left to be with some family member’. There is death and there is loosing. My death frightens me because I loose everything: family, friends, living, etc; but other people’s deaths don’t mess with me, because no matter how personal the loss, there’s still something left behind.

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One of the things that I like about the Death card of the Waite Smith deck is looking at the people who face their coming end. Everyone of them has a different reaction. I mean, here is Death all high and mighty entering stage left riding its horse and flying its banner. And all of a sudden, people start dying at its passage. There’s a priest there, a young girl and a young lady. On the left, the King has died, as it should, he being the symbol of temporal power. Of the power that always ends up dying. The pope, who raises his hands high, either as a sign of worship or to plead to death not to take him just yet. The young woman with the flower wreath, hands down, lying on her knees with her head leaning sideways, as if she has just surrendered to death. And the child who boldly walks up to death and kneels before it.

Death takes all, young and old, rich and poor. It takes both the ones who are tired with living and the ones who embrace it. For, as we were taught since we were little, death is one of the very few certainties about life. And really, were I to have a life without death, would I want it? I don’t know. There’s something about things having to end that gives them value. If there’s anything I cherish in this life it’s those moments the happen before everything is done and over. Like I said above, I take many things for granted. Not giving them the attention and care that they should have. It’s the idea that they might end someday that makes me move and want to enjoy this moments as often as possible. If this idea is over, what is left? People and moments that little by little become forgotten in the haste of daily routines. Connections who just sit there, gathering dust, not really going anywhere and not really ending, since there was no end in site. How bland everything would be…

On the other side, two things usually bother me in the Waite-Smith card: that death arrives fully armored and that it rides a living horse. I can understand that sometimes, death does come announced: in a prolonged illness, in a fall from a building or something like that. But other times, it comes softly, unnoticed. So this parade that is seen in the Waite-Smith card can be unsettling. Ok, it’s the idea of Death as the great conqueror. But look closely: Death is riding a living horse! Surely all living things already carry the seeds of death with them. And then I look at the Marseille card, with just a skeleton doing its dance, grooming its garden and I end up asking, “Why the hell does all of this mean?”

Thankfully, cards can answer all questions. Even those about them. There’s something you don’t understand in a card and can’t work it out by yourself, well then: ask the cards! Which is what I did.

Why does Death come fully armored?

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THE POPE / THE WORLD / THE MAGICIAN
I look at the Pope, and see him pointing upward. Death comes from above, he seems to say. As it enters this world, It needs something to manifest her in it. Hence the armor. The key is in the world card: the four figures in the corner, standing for the four elements indicate our world. And then there’s Death, separated from it by that green wreath. It is coming, bearing its gifts, but still needs to take a form, which is what she ends up doing in the Magician. For all of its power here, Death remains disconnected from this world. It remains its own unique thing. For Death is death and there is nothing remotely like it.

Why does she ride a living horse?

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THE EMPEROR / THE WHEEL / DEATH
Two cards caught my eye here: the first is the card of Death. I mean, really? I’m asking about Death and it decides to show up in the reading? Talk about being omnipresent! The second was the Emperor card. I see immobility here. I see a man wanting to do its stuff but being stuck in its place. And yet, as the Wheel card seems to point out, things continue to move in this world of finite beings; everything keeps going. We know that the Wheel card refers to this world, because once again, the four figures at the corner that represent the elements are present. And so, death comes. Riding a living horse, because again, all living beings carry the seeds of death.

But then, there’s something else. Something right there staring at me and demanding my attention. And I notice: there’s movement in the world of the living, but not in the realm of Death. There is no change in Death; only permanence. This means that to act upon this world, Death needs to be able to move. Which is the domain of the living. So it really has no choice but to use a living being.

This is an interesting idea: that which is comes after that which moves. That which moves can only hope to remain still. But living is all about moving: it is doing stuff, meeting people, seeing places. It is about creating events. And I look again at that little girl down on her knees, looking up to Death and I smile. For in her young age, she is the only one in this whole picture that actually understands what it means not needing to move.

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The Ultimate Lesson of the Cards

Today I wanted to talk about a great experience I recently had in my life. It happened about a month ago, when I had the opportunity to meet two amazing people that welcomed me in such a wonderful way that we can say that yes, it is possible to have several families in the heart. In this case, I’m talking about this particular family which is the Maelstrom gang that happened to get together, even though we remain scattered throughout Europe. Talk about social networking…

I’ve already knew Miguel, with whom I studied, but I still had to personally meet the two ladies that are part of this family, Shelley and Isabel. Shelley knew only Miguel, and I think Isabel didn’t knew anyone personally. Thus, a weekend was arranged and set so that we could all meet up and hang out. I and Miguel were meeting Shelley at the Amsterdam train station on Saturday morning. We were supposed to travel south to Den Haag, where Isabel was waiting for us all. But meeting Shelley was the real ice-breaker. She had such a beautiful and truthful smile, that combined with her warm and powerful hug, I immediately lost all anxiety that this meeting was causing me.

Here, I want to confess that meeting up with tarot people usually leaves me anxious. I never did have that many contact with other tarot readers, apart from a few persons here in Oporto and once, when I was at a tarot conference in England. That experience helped me open up a bit (if you want, you can read about it here), but I still get all jittery inside just thinking of it.

I guess that happens because we almost never speak the same language when talking about cards: most people have this thing about keywords and how each card means this or that and I just keep staring at them trying to figure out what the hell do they mean. Or, if I start to talk about how I see cards and how the images seem to dance in front of my eyes, building up a story right there, there’s usually someone looking at me and wondering where can he or she find that liqueur I just had. I mean, I do understand their point: there are no references in how I read, just images. But then, that’s part of the magic of reading cards. How the same card can indicate so many different things instead of the same old same old. Ok, so maybe I’m simplifying things, but you get what I mean, right?

Well, meeting up with my colleagues here at Maelstrom was quite a treat. First with Shelley on the train station, and later on the train towards Den Haag. It all seemed like we knew each other for quite a long time, that not even the old hag complaining about the noise inside the train — hey! we’re latins, know what I’m saying? — was able to spoil anything. In fact, quite the opposite occurred, since right after we were shushed and that learned that “silence usually means not talking”, this wonderful child — which no doubt also has some great latin genes — started making all kinds of loud noises for the remaining of the journey. This is magic of the highest level, when the Universe itself deems to tell you that you’re right on the spot!

Then it was arriving at Den Haag, a city where I lived in about 16 years ago, during that short time of my life that I was living in the Netherlands. And a place that really I had such a great time, it really grew close to heart. This return to Den Haag was stirring all kinds of emotions and memories inside me. But the that wonderfully pesky child in the train told me, if this was to happen, if we were all supposed to meet, maybe things would be easier here, as in a way it was like coming back home.

Returning to Den Haag after all this time was lovely. Isabel was there with a greeting in everything the same as Shelley’s. And we had some time to walk around the city, although I couldn’t really relate to anything from the time I was living in there. Guess that too much time has passed. But I got to know this wonderful cafe, run by one of Isabel’s friends…And quite a fierce card reader as well.

You know the old saying… whenever there’s cards and readers, there will be readings. It’s as sure a thing as death and taxes. And we did! We did! We did read cards. Isabel read to Shelley, Miguel read to me and Shelley, I read to Isabel and so on and so forth. But we didn’t really read the cards. We would lay the cards on the table and everyone would talk about what they saw. Whatever was on the table, the Tarot of the Bones, The Sibilla Oracle, the Waite-Smith, the Carolus Zoya, the reading came out not from an individual mouth, but from the whole collective. More than a reading, we got into a sharing process where everyone was building on top of everyone else, until a conclusion was reached that was beyond the individual.

For me, it was an eye opener: I was used to people arguing about the meaning of a card. Curiously much more about the meaning of a particular card than the importance of that particular card in the spread. Usually, but not always, it’s those that have a fixed set of meanings for each card and immediately start running infinite mental combinations in search of that special sentence that provides the answer to what they’re seeing. The whole thing feels like it’s some sort of safe-cracking gig, but to each it’s own. Then, there’s the ones that see different things in the same cards, but arrive at the same conclusions: their readings reinforce your own, but add little value to what you’ve put to the table. And finally, there’s the ones that go synergistic, everyone combining their eyes to build a better eye that comes closer to an all-seeing eye.

Because, let’s be frank, the secret to card reading is not so much what we know, but what we allow ourselves to see. What I strive for, as a card reader, is the ability to see everything that is in front of me. But, that means that I must not care about anything: I must not care about my feelings or about anyone else’s feelings for that matter (empathy, is such a big no-no that it should be cut down the instant it approaches). This also means that I must not care about the results of the reading or any consequence that it may entail. There is only the reading and nothing more than the reading.

Reading like this would be perfect! But I’m still so far away from that that to actually have people around me that can make me overcome my blind spots to go that extra mile is great. And when I can also do this to them, then there is equal sharing. There is symbiosis. And what comes out of it is no longer a simple group of people, but something much larger than that. Something that takes you to a whole new level of reading and perception.

In all, it was a truly magical day, where people from different parts of the world got to meet in a special city and understand how they functioned better together than apart.

It was no surprise than that when all things were over and I was alone in my room, I got this for the question “Did we really need to be together for this journey?”

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We did. Justice on the side (in the position that reflects what’s behind the question) is arbitrating the whole thing. And justice stands for truth, so there it is.

I usually use this as a yes or no spread. But here, it’s one of those special cases where there is no “yes” path and there is no “no” path. There only is. And you can find a single story through out all of these cards.

What the cards are indicating was that this was the right moment for us to meet each other and start profiting from each other’s strengths. We will push each other’s boundaries so that all of us can get out of their comfort zone and see things in a different fashion that will ultimately lead us to a higher level. And even if we took the bottom line as a “no”, the first two cards are very explicit: you will go out and search for what is missing, but in the end, you would not leave your own backyard, becoming content with playing with your toys. The question that pops up to this reading would then be “what is it that is missing?”, but this would just send us back to the original question: “Did we really need to meet…?”

When things need to happen, they need to happen. When they are special, they are indeed special. You will know, because there are pointers everywhere. Even if it’s just a little child on a train making sure you know that you should not shut up. It does make me wonder why do we need card readings at all, if all it takes is to be aware of all that’s happening to us and with whom things are happening. I guess that’s the ultimate lesson the cards can give us: be aware… now and for ever. But, while you’re working on it, do read some cards.

On Coins

[As part of our special four-part series on the nature of the tarot card suits, I’ve been asked to talk about the suit of coins. For the previous parts, do check out Miguel’s To a Queen of Swords and Shelley’s The Fool’s Journey Through the Tarot Suit of Cups.]

 

My first experiences with the suit of Coins happened way before I ever got involved with the Tarot. I was eight years old when I found my first stray card. It happened on a garden. I was sitting on a bench, waiting for my parents. When I was about to leave, I took my hand to my pants and found that an Ace of Diamonds got stuck into my pocket. At that time, it felt like an omen. I have always had a soft spot for this card. It was red, one of my favorite color and at its center, it had a big diamond, which reminded me of diamonds, money. In a way, it reminded me of the good stuff in life. I guess that was why, when I was playing cards with my family, I always wanted that particular card to show up on my parents’ hand. To give him some needed good fortune in life. I’ve held to that particular card I found in the garden for years. I carried it with me in my wallet wherever I went, until I lost my wallet and the card that was inside. At that moment, as I was reminded that what comes, will also go away sometimes, everything broke. And I learned that no matter how good a talisman is, it’s no substitute for ourselves and our ability to go after our own things by our means. You see, magic is a good thing, but never a substitute for work and diligence.

A few years later, I was in Den Haag, in the Netherlands, trying to make ends meet. I needed some money to catch a bus home, but didn’t have enough to buy the ticket. Thus, I ended up walking my way home. On the way, I stopped for a while to catch my breath. I glanced down and saw another Ace of Diamonds, right there on the floor. I picked it up and found five euros glued to the back of the card. There was the money I needed, after all. This card was indeed an amulet. Once again I took the card – and the money – and keep it in my wallet. Once again, I ended up loosing the card. Only this time, I wasn’t concerned. Twice it had appeared, bringing either news of fortune or, money to a much needed situation. And they say third time’s a charm, so I’m quite sure it will show up again.

For me, this is what the suit of Coins represent. Money, riches, quality of life. The money part is easy: the suit is called “coins” after all. In Portugal, where I’m from, we call it “Ouros”, which translates as “Gold”. In a deck of playing cards, the suit of coins corresponds to Diamonds. And oce again, we have that meaning of riches, of precious things right there in the name of the card. But riches doesn’t necessary mean just money and precious metals. It can also mean anything we find of value. It can be a good friendship, or a plentiful table. In a way, of everything good that we receive from friends, family, society and nature itself, for food and shiny things are taken from the earth to our enjoyment and fulfillment.

And yet, it is the human eye that sets the value of all that surrounds us. What is precious one day can become dull and worthless the next day. Money is a fickle and nervous thing. It doesn’t like to rest, but to travel from one hand to the other. In a way, it gets nervous if it has to stop for more than a few moments, and it ends up loosing value. As any book on finances will tell you, money is only good as long as it can be passed along, traded for another thing. Unless you’re Uncle Scrooge, that is, and take your enjoyment out of jumping into piles of money, swimming through them and toss it up and let it hit him on the head.

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From “Only A Poor Man”. Story and Art © Walt Disney

When going through the suit of pentacles, we can see how these things influence our lives. Whether you’re using a Marseille deck or a Waite-Smith deck or any other, the same ideas come forth, even if in different ways or in different cards. As I’ve mostly familiar with the Waite-Smith deck, this is the deck I’ll be using to address the suit of coins. As a first approach, the more coins we get in the spread, the better we are. If these cards are meant to remind us of the good things in life, this is easy to understand: one coin (the ace) is little; ten (the highest number in the suit) is great wealth. So the higher the number, the better we are. But then, we come to the images. Some of the images from the WS suit of coins are not as positive as one would like. They speak of loss and misery; of struggle and work; of patience and the need to resort to others. This is to be expected, as money comes, money goes and really, how many of us can tame that fierce beast under its belt?

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Money comes to us as a gift. From our parents at first, but also from friends, strangers or bosses. It is handed to us to do as we please. This then would be the ace. Money as an offering, a gift. In a way, it can also mean a letter, as gifts of money usually arrive inside a letter, as it is not polite to show everyone else what one is giving.

As soon as we get money in our hands, our struggle starts. What to do with it, or where to put it. Expenses such as food, house, water and gas are to be paid and we have only two coins to address it all. Not enough for our needs, but still, one must make ends meet.

Fortunately, we can rely upon others. That is, if our social network is a strong one. Family and friends can come to our rescue and bring us that extra coin, thereby increasing our income to three.

But four coins is the minimum number that we need for security and stability. Enough coins to cover our corners. However, this is a dangerous number, as we have only enough money to meet our expenses. There is a tendency to grab on to what we have and not let it go. If you look at the picture of the four of coins, that’s exactly what you will see: the man in the picture is seated, two coins safely tucked under its feet; one around his arms and one at his head. There’s a risk here, for money doesn’t like to be held against its will. Money is like a spirit, you see, and the more you bind him, the worse it will treat you. And in the end, if you don’t pay your bills…

You will end up loosing everything. Creditors will come and take what is yours and good luck with your four coins. In the end, you will need more than that and unless you have them tucked away, you will be left on the street, cut away from the very society that you were part of. In the Five of Coins, we see two vagrants walking in the street. There’s snow everywhere and a lit window that recalls the comforts of a warm home. I tend to think of the Little Match Girl, when I see this card. However, unlike the hero in Andersen’s story, our vagrants don’t stop and go near the window. They know fully well the reality they’re on, and unless they find a shelter quickly, they will freeze to death. The Five of Coins is then, not a card to get complacent. Hard times are hard times, and need to be addressed with seriousness if one is to escape them.

So what can one do then, except go begging in the streets? To rely upon the kindness of strangers? A coin gained can be such a treasure, after all. It can put some warm food in our belly or help us get a shelter for the night. Still, to depend upon the kindness of strangers is never a good thing. Strangers will only tend to give what they won’t miss. Those few extra coins are to be scattered between all that are in need, and maybe, just maybe it won’t be our turn just now. Still, it is the first step to get on our feet, now that the importance of money has been learnt.

If we take that coin and plant it in fertile ground (7 of Coins), we might get lucky. Our small business might develop and, with time, prosper. But grooming a business takes time. And it takes money. Good things grow slowly, so make sure that you do this well and stay vigilante. Else someone else ends up taking what is yours.

This is the time to work. To work and work and work. There’s no escaping it. Money comes through work. And if nothing else is there to do, well… work some more. The more you put into things, the bigger the rewards. So says the 8 of Coins.

And someday, someday things will bloom again and you will see the fruits of your labor. You will gather enough money to have a secure life. A life without any worries, your nine coins providing all the wealth that you need.

And with luck, you will get there. To the ten of coins. Money is not a problem anymore, as you can do anything you want. Or perhaps it is. Just look at the card. A couple is meeting in a garden, oblivious to all but themselves. But, lurking in the shadows, an old man remains seated, guarding his treasure. As Uncle Scrooge would tell you, that’s the problem with having too much money: you end up having to guard it against all thieves. Once again, you’re a prisoner of money, but now, you’re tending to its needs. Money did give you everything you wanted, but in return, it demanded your total obedience. Was it worth it? If it isn’t, you can always start again, by giving someone a coin. Just enough to get them started.

For the court cards, we go through the same exercise one again.

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The page holds its coin high, dreaming of all he can do with it. He is like a child, wondering which of his dreams he will fulfill this time with what little money he has. For him, money is like a blessing and he intends to treat it as such.

The Knight knows better, and sees it not as the promise of some item to be bought, but a way to get where he needs to go. For him, money is that secret key that opens all doors. Or at least, can open the right ones. Now, he only has to figure where he is going.

For the Queen, money is to be tended and looked after. It doesn’t come easily, so she should better not let it out of her sight. With the right attention, it can increase and offer abundance. But if she takes her eyes out of it, it will disappear. Money is then something necessary to attain what she needs. And to secure her home.

For the King, money is to be shown and paraded. It is there to make a stand and to give him privilege. He is King, after all, and he has the most money of them all; the most power. It is time to do as he pleases when he pleases and how he pleases. It is time to finally rule his world.

In all, money is a means to an end. It is there to provide us with the things we need and, with luck, some of the things we might like, even though we don’t necessary need them. The suit of coins addresses a part of our life: the material part. However, as the other suits point out, it is not the only part that needs to be attended. Even if having all those coins in our pocket might feel like a good thing.

My Little Faun

I’ve always been in love with drawing and painting. It’s not something that I’m good at, or ever was. In fact, I’m the only one in my family that can’t draw, or paint, to save his own life. My parents, however, are both very good painters, which is something that I’m really proud of. Specially my mother. She can work with watercolors and oil and charcoal and produce the most interesting pictures. Some of them I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hands on.

The reason I’m bringing this up, is that I wanted to write about a picture my mother drew. A charcoal drawing that was made some fifteen years ago. It’s a picture that I find very special and alluring and even though it is not mine (yet!), I have no doubts that it will eventually fall into my hands. After all, what kind of a panda would I be if I couldn’t charm a picture out of her? 😉

The picture is about a boy. There’s something very primal about it. It looks like a faun with its little horns an pointy ears and his face is very seductive. He stares at me, daring me to come closer, to find out about hidden mysteries and forgotten secrets. He is smiling. I can see him easily seducing everyone in a room with that smile. He knows the power he has over people and finds it easy to play with them, if he so desires. There’s a fire burning inside of him and everything is crackling with energy. Even his hair seems like flames rising ever so high, his energy and power wanting to escape somehow.

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Looking at this picture, I can see a part of me staring back to me. I can see myself as a child who loved to play and to provoke others. Mischievous, even. Someone who can make himself noticed just by walking into a room. He shines and he reminds me of that little kid that shone, defiant to all the world and its surroundings. Looking at this picture, I can see someone that I used to be a long long long time ago. Someone who is still there in a way, even though family and society have done their work on me as it usually happens. It calls to my inner most nature and asks it to manifest itself. To come out just be…

So I just stared at him and asked him “what do you have to say to me?”

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As I laid three cards of the table, The Wheel, Death and Judgement, I could tell that it was important. You are tarot readers, you know what I mean, right? That feeling of looking at a spread and thinking  “Now this is the real stuff! This is what this is really about!”? There is something in the way the cards look next to each other that will whisper this to your ears. Or is it to the eyes? Looking at the spread, I could hear it here. That little voice in the back of my mind alerting me to what was right there in front of me. In those tiny little pictures.

I looked at the wheel and I immediately recognized my little faun. He’s all grown up now, and with no fire in his head. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Wheels turn, but this one didn’t. It happens, right? Sometimes, you just look at them and they are frozen. Immovable. However, what did move were all the animals and the angels surrounding the wheel. Funny that. An immovable wheel, but everything else is moving. I started to think how things were spinning all around me in my life. People coming and going. The routines of my daily life. All the various places that I needed to go everyday due to work. And how tiring it could be just to run from place to place; from person to person. That little devil sure has had its due. And maybe more than its due. Does he actually carry the wheel or is he just being hit by that damned wheel? It looks like he is being run over. Specially if one looks at the next card.

Death is walking away from all of this. Of course it is. It’s death and this is what it does. There will be a time when everything in the Universe will be dead, and death will just walk out of it and close the door. Because it is death, so what else is it going to do? So, I’m to walk away from all of this. But looking more carefully at the card, I can see that it’s not just about walking away. It is also about walking over everything and everybody. Which is understandable. This is death, after all and no one (I’m reminded of how misery got the best of death, but that’s another story and we don’t have the time, so let’s just get along with “no one”) gets the better out of it. Death gets to do what it wants to do and that is that. Ah! so here is the defiant bit. Do your own stuff and don’t you worry with anything else. This is you in your power, walking the path that you want to walk. Away from the confusion and the pressures of the wheel.

Which takes me to the Judgement card. Someone is being called from the grave by an angel. Tradition would say he or she is being called to a new life. Stepping into a new phase, one would read in the tarot books. Which seems all good. As soon as I cut with all that mess, a new life will open itself to me. This is one of those times when I’m pretty grateful for not using a horror-inspired deck and having to ask myself if those people in the Judgement card are zombies or not. New life it is, with stuff heralded by the heavens themselves. The three figures in the wheel are here again, now all in human form. My faun / devil is at the right and has turned into a blond woman. His hair has grown back and it is as fiery as I ever imagined it to be when looking at the painting.

This is important, after all. My little faun is daring me to just let go of all the stuff I have in my life that is just dead weight. He’s asking me to cut through it all and revert to the true me. To that kid that got buried somehow, sometime ago and needs to be brought back. My little faun is asking me to become more like him and do the stuff I want to do. For it seems that little kid that I was, the kid that somehow the faun recognized in me is still there. And it’s stronger than death.

Family Bondings

As I write this, Easter has just passed. I come from a catholic country and, even though I’m not a practicing catholic, I was raised in this religion. Easter is very special time for us catholics, as it tells us how Jesus after being persecuted and passing through the ordeal of his death, breaks the bonds of death itself to come back to life. It wasn’t the first time he had done so, as the story of the resurrection of Lazarus shows us, but according to the Bible he was the first to transcend Death, to assume his place as the Son of God. And, not only that, he did this while remaining true to his values of truthfulness, justice, humility, patience and compassion. For me, this is why the image of Jesus nailed in the cross is so powerful: I see not the suffering but how far he went in his love for Mankind and in his mission of Redemption of all Mankind from the shackles of sin.

The same theme of breaking free from bondage is also found in the Jewish festival of the Passover, which in this year coincided with the festival of Easter. In this case, it is not freedom from death that is celebrated. Or at least not literal death, as in the Christian celebration, but the liberation of the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt.

It is then a powerful time, when freedom is to be celebrated and the reunion with one’s own with those who are close to us. With those of kin. In Portugal, families reunite around the table to celebrate their union. It is a time to put aside all differences and stick together, for even though bonds were broken, some bonds should remain strong and tight. It is interesting to observe how some bonds are to be broken, while others need to be strengthen. How some bonds can become a self-imposed prison, while other bounds are there for our protection. In a way, Easter calls me to think of bonds and to determine which bonds to maintain and which to sever. And here, family plays an important part.

I look to my family in a positive way. We’re not always in the best of terms. We quarrel and argue, sometimes so much that I feel tempted to just throw everything away and walk out on them. Sometimes, it felt that I was sacrificing way to much to my family and this prevented me to lead the life I wanted to have. Still, I was never capable of breaking those bonds. Time and time again, I would return to them, conscious that no matter how bad things were, my well-being was also dependent on their presence in my life.

When I was writing this post, I did a reading with a Lenormand deck, the Day of the Dead Lenormand by Edmund Zebrowski, a deck I’m not at all familiar, having only used once or twice, but that felt important here, since it was given to me by someone special. It was this connection, I think, that brought me to it and that made me think it would have something relevant to say. But since this is one of my first readings with a Lenormand deck, please excuse me for any short-sightings I may have. As I was placing the cards on the table, I got:

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Cards from the Day of the Dead Lenormand deck by Edmund Zabrowski

The Serpent / The Bear / The Clover / The House / The Mountain

The first thing that called my attention was how the outer cards represented negative things (with Serpent speaking about seduction and betrayal and Mountain reminding me of obstacles and problems that need to be overcome). At the center, three cards, Bear, Clover and House, which bring to mind ideas of protection and security (Bear and House) with Luck in between them. My first reading would then be that my Family provides me with safe harbor against all the things which might tempt me in the outside world. It is also a place where good things can develop (The Clover), since they are favored by the protection of both Bear and House.

As I was looking at the cards trying to read them as a sentence, I got the following: “as Snake tries to get to the Clover, she is stepped on by Bear, leaving the Clover to grow near the House by the Mountain”. So Bear here is both the guardian of Clove and the destroyer of the snake. It is the one who guards against the seductions of the world, the things that seem to good to be true and generally aren’t. By doing so, it enables real luck to arise, for good things to happen, even if they are as unexpected as a four-leaf Clover. That this Clover grows near the House in the Mountain, again says that luck and good things need to be fostered: they need the security and the shelter that the House provides in the face of problems (the Mountain).

And yet, as I felt I needed more familiar grounds, I ended up pulling my Waite-Smith deck and drawing three cards for that very same question:

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The Empress, the Temperance, the Magician

A woman is sitting on her throne, calmly watching as the the plants in front of her grow. She’s looking at the plants. Maybe even guarding them? If so, this seems to resonate with what I saw with the Lenormand deck. At the other end, a Magician is up to its tricks. It’s good that he is experimenting, but as often happens to me with this card, I can’t stop asking “does he really knows what he’s up to?” It is the Magician, after all, and not some sage like the Pope. I find him more interested in doing stuff for the sake of doing, without being concerned with any outcome. If the Empress is the one who guards, I have to assign her to my family and think how often my family watches over me. This, then, means that I’m the Magician. The one who wants to do stuff and have its my own existence by myself. That the Empress is looking over to my side tells me that I’m constantly being watched, which is a good thing when it doesn’t step on my toes. On the other side, I might also want too much independence, too much freedom and try to break the bonds that connect me to my family. A compromise needs to be taken, which is, what I feel, is what the Temperance card is all about. Just look at the angel’s toes, one in firm land, the other on the water. Talk about different sides indeed! Above them, two jugs of water are leveled one against the other. My desire to stand on my own ground, against the protective pull of the Empress, trying to embrace me like a tide. It is a very delicate balance, as it can easily overflow if too much water is placed one of the jars. And indeed, how many times do we hear of families members that don’t get along with each other?

I found it interesting how the same message comes from both the Lenormand and the Waite-Smith decks. Looking at my own relationship with my family, I can understand how they have shaped my character, by allowing me to make mistakes and growing on my own, while at the same time trying to prevent me from going so far away that I can’t return. Looking at this, it’s easy to recognize how the positive aspects of this relationship have outweighed the negative aspects. It is a very strong bond, and one that doesn’t let me go very far on my own (with all the frustrations that come along with it). However, there’s also warmth in there and fondness. And gratitude for a bond so strong that it can’t be severed.