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.

Resonating With The Cards

As any book on tarot will tell you, each card has associated a certain number of meanings, which are called “keywords”. These could be single words, but also expressions, sentences or whatever fancies your state of mind. Many books on tarot will also tell you that in a reading, you can get a glimpse of what is before you by putting keywords together. So, for example if you have the Wheel and The Universe, you can assign to the first the keyword “change” and to the second, the keyword “world”. The reading of such a combination would then become “changing the world” or “changing your world” or something like that.

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Choose a different set of words, like “luck” for The Wheel and “fulfillment” for The Universe, and you get a completely different meaning.

And this is just one of the problems that arise by constantly thinking in terms of words and expressions, instead of thinking visually. By choosing a certain keyword, we are ignoring every other possible keyword / meaning. By going with a certain combination of words, by extension, we let go of all possible combinations. At best, we might get a superficial reading. At worst, we might get it wrong, deluded with the interpretation we got.

An alternative way is to just look at the images as images, not as coded text. To think of them as images, as a combination of shapes, colors and patterns and try to figure out how they can relate with each other, if indeed they relate. In this case, we can, and still taking the above example, notice at how the circle in the Wheel card expands in the Universe card and what looked like a sigil is in fact a girl dancing. Expansion can thus be a possible meaning for this combination. Another possibility could be “a detailed look”. Or maybe “bringing forth life”, by reasoning that the cold, metallic wheel has been transformed into a girl inside a laurel circle.

Now compare these last readings with the ones we got by combining words.

Another interesting thing about this particular process is that it communicates with our brains in a way that he is more comfortable with. It allows us to access our own personal image banks and find some other things. Let’s say for example that the Wheel, for whatever reason, reminds you of a compass, and that the girl has a look on its face, in fact her whole body language seems to suggest, that she is lost / looking for something. Then the reading would be something like “finding your north” or “whichever way the wind blows, so shall I go”.

Or maybe the yellow circle that’s on the Wheel card reminds you of a pocket watch. Not just any pocket watch, but a familiar pocket watch. Maybe you’ve seen such a device in some movie. Or maybe it was a pocket watch passed in your family for generations, the memory of some distant familiar sitting on a couch looking at the watch trying to determine if it was time to go to a football match… the girl in the Universe card would then become some cheerleader whose job was to keep everybody on their seats while waiting for the game to start.

Or maybe that circle is meant to symbolize a cake. A birthday celebration. The promise of that special gift we were asking our parents for so long. A present that when unwrapped will disclose our heart’s desire. Or perhaps the Wheel is there to just point to us a coin found by chance on the street. A coin that’s exactly what we need to buy that special something / a bus ticket.

Or maybe it has nothing to do with coins or cakes or watches or anything round. Maybe it’s about the four elements. An exam we need to study? Or the clouds: a bad time that’s finally ending?? Some moody someone???

When looking at images and trying to figure out what they are trying to tell us, the possibilities are virtually endless. And, best of all, they don’t cancel each other out, but can build upon each other and provide countless layers of meaning, depending on how far we need to go. ‘The cards tell you about a girl who wants to go to her parents’ house for Christmas. However, she doesn’t have enough money for the ride back home and is asking people for some help. In the end, she manages to get the bus fare and travel home.’

In the end, each tarot card provides us with an image. In some cases direct images; in others irrational ones. Even so, part of their charm and their endurance can be justified by how powerful these images are. How they can point us at some hidden truth, or some hidden treasure if we only take the time to look at them and try to figure out why what is it that’s there that’s being reflected to us. What is it that is making us vibrate / resonate with that particular frequency. But for this type of work we need to look inside ourselves at the same time that we look at the pictures before us. We become a passage linking everything that makes us us and the mirror that’s in front of us and listen to the communication that arises between them.

The spread before us, calling up to us and making us wonder what’s so special about that particular communication that we get pulled by it. That we need to stop and listen. And keywords, although useful (specially if you’re learning the ropes of the trade) are usually so general, that will pass this by, as they can be used by anyone, anywhere. Not just you, in that particular circumstance. Because, no matter how great they are, only you can unlock your imagination / memory / intuition / connection to that very special place where true insight arises and blossom.

The Christmas Advent Tarot Board

 

For a very long time, I was against having too many decks. I figured that two/three working decks were more than enough for day-to -day practices and would allow a greater focus on understanding each deck, instead of just jumping around from one deck to another. However, this started to change a few years ago, when I bought my first deck mainly because I enjoyed the artwork. It was the Sakki-Sakki Tarot, a cute and playful take on the Rider-Waite Smith deck. There was something special about that deck. The cards were playful; the deck reeked of good vibes and well, even though I would take it and stare at it for hours, I just couldn’t bring myself to use it. It felt special. Way too special to be used in “common” readings and, God forbid!! on others. In fact, if I’ve used it 10 times, it was way too much. This deck taught me that some decks are not for day-to-day situations. Rather, they are to be appreciated and used only when the time is right. Or in a special occasion.

As the years went by, I ended up adding a few more decks to the group of “For Special Occasions Only”. Decks which I felt had such a personal vision or a special perspective. Decks that truly felt magickal in one way or another. And, in time, I learned to use those decks. Some of them, like the Tarot of the Crone, I have already mentioned in previous texts; others, like Emily Carding’s Tarot of the Siddhe, I’m mentioning here for the first time.

You see, there is a special game I do twice a year. Once in July, the Nativity Board, and once at Christmas, the Christmas Advent Board.

It’s concept is pretty simple and derives from the Card-for-a-Day concept: Starting at the beginning of the month in question, you build a board with as many cards as there are days to the actual events: in this case, 27 for the Nativity board and 25 for Christmas (and yes, I’m actually counting the actual day of the event). These cards are randomly picked from the deck and randomly placed on the table. Every morning, you turn a card at random from the board. This is your Card for this Day. Your Special Card. The objective here, is not to make a prediction. Rather, it is to take the card as a guide and try to do your best to do something that not only lives to your reading of the card, but also feels truly special. In short, this is your cue to a very unique and special day. An opportunity to make this day a special event as catalyzed by a reading from a deck you consider in someway special.

This year, I went with the Tarot of the Siddhe.

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At the time of this writing, four days had passed, which means that four cards have already been turned. Day 1, Dreamer Five: Winter’s Bite (fifth card, fourth tier); Day 2, Dancer Eight: Escaping Stagnation (third card, fourth tier; Day 3, Dreamer Queen: The Gift of Reason (second tier); Day 4, Dreamer Six, Insight’s Voyage (third tier).

As an example of what this Board can entice, here is today’s card:

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The two main elements which immediately struck my attention are the boat and the Siddhe who is blowing some air, in order to make the boat go forth. Her hand stands below the boat, as if to give it protection. There is an owl carved in the boat (maybe symbolizing wisdom) and a sword on the sail. We’re in reason’s domain here as air propels the vessel of knowledge to go forth. The card is colored blue and yellow (also colors pertaining to the elements of water and air). So maybe a beach of some kind. The sun seems to be setting, as it’s at almost the same level as the boat. And then there’s the title, “Insight’s Voyage”, which made me think of gaining inner knowledge. So, for the special day… a voyage to be had, probably starting or ending at the beach, which is meant to give a deeper understanding of something. Psychogeography, a technique for shamanically finding meaning in urban landscapes immediately came to mind. I would then start at the beach, near a statue of a man at the helm, conveniently placed near the see here in my hometown of Oporto:

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The walk would then proceed randomly, letting fate or chance (or the winds of the card), carry me to my destination. I would turn when I was told to turn, eventually do tasks (there was a part in the walk where I had to throw a stick into a lake in order to see where next to go) and generally let the city slowly show me what I needed to know in its own time.

I passed through many of its landmarks connected, in some way or another, with freedom. There would be statues celebrating victories against invading armies and ancient prisons known for having, among others, people who dared to think for themselves. I ended up passing through streets with names like “Praça da Liberdade” (Liberty Square) or the the remaining defensive walls. And at every other turn, there would be a fountain or a lake or a view of the river. Water was always present, always reminding me of being fluid. Freedom and Fluidity. That sure seems like Swords to me.

In the end, I took the message to be something like “don’t get constrained either by what others expect of you or by your own sense of identity. Let yourself flow, like a river to the sea or, as I walked, like the sea into the river. Remaining true to yourself doesn’t mean stagnation but rather the ability to honor your essence at every single opportunity”

And that, my friends, is the Christmas Advent Tarot Board.

Flowing into tarot

Image from the Osho Tarot
Image from the Osho Tarot

When I was learning how to read the cards, I had a very hard time. No matter how much I struggled, everything felt very complicated, and I would get stuck on the meanings of the cards. I wanted to read so badly, that nothing flowed and I would grasp for something that would open the card for me. In the end, of course, I couldn’t read a thing. I ended up hating up card reading and all I wanted was to be done with it. To be done with having to face my inability to tell what I saw in the cards and provide an answer.

This went on until the day someone read the cards to me. All it said, was that I should just be myself and believe in myself and let everything flow. But it felt pretty much like a beating.

And here’s the interesting thing: when you’re honest with yourself and just do what you set out to do, the cards will just open like a book and everything seems so clear…Even if you don’t have that much knowledge of the cards. The cards will speak your own language and no matter your level of expertise, you will see what you need to see. But try to fool them, try to fool yourself into something you’re not and you will be blocked out. There is no access point.

Now this might seem like hocus pocus, or some new age thingie, but it’s just plain logic. To be honest with ourselves means to know exactly where we stand, where the facts are and what they are. There is no mistaking anything. There is no running around trying to figure out what is good and what is invented and how that is woven into your reading. Just simple plain facts laid out in front of you.

This came to full light when I made my first reading. As part of my tarot course, I had to read the cards to a complete stranger. Now this would function as a true reading with only one difference: my instructors would be there, in case anything was needed. My client wanted to know about her love life and how it would progress. And this is where it got strange. According to the cards, I had this soap opera story, about her and her two  relationships. She was seeing two guys at the same time, even though she was only interested in one of them. And, according to the cards, she was willing to get pregnant to get him to marry her… Now, you look at this, specially with your lack of experience and you go “This simply can not be!!! I must be seeing something wrong!!!” But there it was on the cards. And then my instructors started manifesting themselves and this might just be true and maybe it really was true and I just had to go on and say what I saw. And, well, it turned out to be true, as she ended up admitting as much.

This turned out to be a really enlightening reading for me. For the first time, I just believed in myself and let it flow. And there it was… the opening I searched for with the cards. And all it took was some cool thinking, some honesty, and, above all, a capacity to relax. To take the situation for what it was and to let it flow.

Today, I still get asked what can one do when a block occurs. Maybe it’s in tarot reading. Maybe it’s with something about our lives. And I still reach out to that first reading and give out some pointers. The same pointers I’m putting here. You’ve probably heard some of them, if not all, before. And here they are again. And the reason to it is that they actually work. From my experience, they are the most effective way to deal with a block. And with tarot readings. For what is a tarot reading if not a representation of our lives, laid out before us so that we can consciously acknowledge what’s going on with our lives.

  1. Be honest about yourself and your work. It’s not a matter of being able to do much or to do little. But rather of knowing where we stand and what can we do about it. By having this established, we can then proceed to work on expanding our limits. Of pushing forth and learn some more. But in the end, this is about us. This is not about our neighbors or the person next door who doesn’t have to work so hard and is at a higher level than us.
  2. Take the pressure off. So, you have a reading. You have someone who is expecting an answer. The sooner your querent will relax, the sooner you can relax and get down to business. This means getting him/her comfortable, putting him/her at ease. Offering some tea or something to eat are just some of the ways in which to do this. A preliminary talk explaining what will happen and inviting him/her to participate can also do wonders. Maybe even tell a little joke to lighten up the mood.
  3. In a reading you have as many entry points as you have cards in the spread. People often start their readings at the present. Or maybe at the first card drawn. But in reality, you can start your reading at any position. In a 3-card reading, you have three entry points. In the Celtic Cross (a 10-card reading), you have 10 entry points. And so on. So, instead of trying to figure out the first card, try to find the card that most calls to you and figure it out first. And then proceed to the other cards. Chances are, if you look at your reading from a different perspective, a different point of view, the block you thought was there, isn’t there after all.
  4. Simplify. Card reading is supposed to be fun. It is also supposed to be direct and frontal. So, if you’re grasping for meanings, chances are you will get esoteric. You will grasp at anything that might cast a glimpse of light on your cards. But, in front of you is a drawing and on the other side of the table is someone who simply does not care about esoteric or complicated thoughts. They want the story chewed, digested and ready to be absorbed. So, simplify. Go back to basics. Try to figure out what does that card mean. Why is it there? Why this card and not another one? Chances are, the answers is the drawing. Which leads us to…
  5. First thing seen, is all that matters. If you need to, just close your eyes, open it and the first thing you see is the one thing that matters. Forget everything else and concentrate on that detail you’ve seen immediately after you’ve opened your eyes. That’s where your answers lie.

An inner voice

Steven Arnold , “Dream of Transformation”

There was a time, in my life, when I used to have to dream. Images started to take shape. First, in a somewhat distorted form but, little by little, people would appear. Or maybe things or colors. Now this could be distressing, as most of the times, these dreams would find their way into reality. They came as a type of warning that something important was about to happen and soon. And happen they did. You can imagine how unnerving it could be trying to figure out what was supposed to happen next. How I tried to fight those dreams from appearing and the sleepless nights I ended up having in a last minute attempt to escape from them.

In one of these dreams, I was inside a room. There was someone else there. A friend. And some cards. And I was playing with those cards. Picking them. Playing with them. It was one of the most weird dreams I ever had, because it was so different from anything else and so hard to understand, but at the same time so clear and so vivid. I would try to figure out why was this important, but to no avail. At least for a considerable amount of time.

I did learn to read cards. In a friend’s house. In the room I dreamt about. Well, … not exactly the room I dreamt about, but it was close enough to actually recognize it when I was there. And, as I was actually learning tarot, a strange thing started to happen: my dreams started to loose their strength. As I became more and more confident in card reading, so would my dreams soften up and become less threatening. It was almost as if I found a channel to get in touch with myself and access my inner self. I started to learn tarot, because I was fascinated with how some pieces of cardboard could provide the answers to most of our problems. Or… I started to read the tarot, because I was in need of a channel to communicate with myself.

It’s funny that nowadays, whenever I read the cards, I can’t be bothered with meanings. I look into a card and I close my eyes and I wait. Wait for a sound, for an image, for a color… for something to spark my mind. To arouse my intuition. It’s funny, because today, I’m doing the exact opposite of what I was doing when I started: I’m using the tarot to access all those images that would swim into my mind. To consciously access them and bring them forth in the form of an answer, a word of advice or a remark. More than a tool of divination, tarot became my own private way to tune in into my own inner voice. And to help others do the same too. When I started my practice, the most curious thing happened. I found out that everyone had its own distinct inner voice. Sometimes, it would be soft and gentle. Other times, angry and powerful. The deck was the same. The images, also. But the voices would always be different. There would always be different shades of colors, different shapes, different sounds. Everytime, something familiar; everytime, something different.

And it all started with a card, taken randomly from the deck. And I would breath in… breath out… close my eyes…  and listen to everything that came my way.