A Tarot Student's Journey

Archive for the ‘Not So Simple Gifts’ Category

Not So Simple Gift – The Hermit

The Hermit

Shine your light

Today’s card exploring what gifts/lessons I’ve received from tough times is The Hermit. I’ve always loved this card and identified with the solitary figure, shining his lantern for others. It’s not for himself, his gaze is averted. This card speaks of solitude and this is something that resonates strongly with me. I’ve learned over recent years to be comfortable with my own company.

Last summer I did a long-distance trek across Scotland for a week, just me, a large rucksack and my dog. The most common question I received from people was, ‘Didn’t you get lonely?’ No. Not at all. Not even for a second.

The Hermit, number 9 of the trumps, also speaks of coming to an end of the first phase of the Fool’s Journey – the end of a period of change. The Hermit doesn’t just have lessons to teach, he is the lesson. It reflects the need to withdraw from the company of others in order to journey inward and to really know yourself.

Retreat and solitude are sometimes necessary for growth. This gives me hope because I’ve spent long periods of time in solitude and am ready to emerge from my cocoon.


Not So Simple Gifts – The Six of Swords

Six of SwordsToday’s simple gift is The Six of Swords. I have a very emotional response to this card because I identify so strongly with the figure of the woman hunched together with her child travelling across the water, moving from a place of rough water to one of calmness and stillness. I’ve looked at this  card many times wishing I had someone behind me, strong enough to ferry me across the rough waters.

Today, however, if I look at this card as a gift I see that if I don’t have an actual someone there helping me to cross I do have the ability or the energy guiding me to more peaceful times. And the peaceful times are not far away. This fills me actual hope that a rosier future may not be far away. (something I’ve been sorely lacking recently)

The swords stuck in the boat can represent the need for mental clarity and reason. Or in this case they could indicate that I already have that mental clarity, that it’s served me well and will always be there for me to use. Another interpretation could be seeing the swords as emotional attachments or baggage. I have so many negative  attachments, directed towards my ex (anger, outrage, humiliation, abandonment, rejection). I recognise fully the need to let them go. However I’ve learned that telling someone to ‘let it go’ and trying too hard to let it go is the surest way to wind yourself further into the problem. Things have to play their course.

In her great book, The Transformational Truth of Tarot , Tiffany Crosara  says of this card ‘Sometime we have to move on with our baggage or we wouldn’t move at all.’

Not So Simple Gifts – Three of Wands

Three of Wands This is Day Two of asking the tarot what gift my recent troubles and experiences have given me. I’m trying to connect with what I’ve learned over recent years and what I’ve gained from having gone through tough times.

Today’s card is The Three Of Wands in which we see a man having reached the top of a sea cliff gazing out to sea watching the ships he’s set sail as the set off out into the wider world. He supports himself with one hand firmly on a sturdy wand and is surrounded by two other wands. To me, he looks tired as if getting to the top of the cliff has winded him slightly. To me this is the card of embarking on a new beginning, taking that first step to put the feelers out and see what rewards come back to you. It’s not a card of infinite possibility – the ships do not have an infinite body of water to sail off to. There are mountains clearly visible just across the water, but they don’t look too menacing or insurmountable.

For me this cards reflects the opportunities I’ve had to expand my horizons that I would not have had if nothing had changed for me. I’ve gone through relationship breakdown, financial disaster, becoming a single mother. Have weathered emotional and physical abuse from my ex and have come out of it a very different person. Sometimes it’s very difficult sitting in the uncertainty of this new life. But so many things have opened up for me that could not have happened if I’d stayed in that relationship. Life there would have had to be very…normal. Very traditional. Houses. Mortgages. Office job.  Life now follows my path.

This card also offers me hope. At the moment I’m not feeling very motivated or active. I feel the complete opposite. This card tells me that it’s ok to go slowly, to rest when I need to. Not to just plunge into things full steam ahead. I can’t sustain that type of energy and I need to honour it. It also shows me that I have support around me, advises me to keep my support systems close and perhaps join forces with my network of friends to build something going forward.

It also reminds me that it’s ok to stop and take pause but not to lose sight of possibilities. It’s a gentle nudge to start looking toward the future.

Not So Simple Gifts – Temperance

Yesterday’s reading led me to ask the question, ‘What gifts have I been given through my experiences?’ Experiences, I suppose, is a euphemism for god-awful hard times. Sometimes it’s hard not to get bogged down in the negative and we lose sight of the lessons we’ve learned or the qualities that have gotten us through those hard times. So for the next few days, I’m going to draw one card a day to clarify what gifts my experiences have given me.

Tarot Card - Temperance Temperance
Temperance can be defined as ‘moderation in action, thought, or feeling; restraint.’ It has been a core value of most major religions including Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. Plato considered it a core virtue of the ideal city. Generally we think of temperance as restraining some desire or impulse such as sexual desire, gluttony, anger, or vanity. It also speaks of self control and discipline.

In the card to the left we see a winged angel standing at the water’s edge with one foot on dry land (grounded) and one foot in the water (the realm of intuition, feeling). Some sources say the angel is the child of Hermes and Aphrodite and therefore both male and female, a hermaphrodite. A blend. The angel holds two cups from which water flows from the lower cup into the higher cup. Some sources say the angel is blending a stream of hot water with a stream of cold water. A path leads from the water to the horizon where a golden crown appears promising future reward. The card imparts a sense of having found balance, harmony and peace.

The Greek word Sophrosyne lends a deeper resonance to this card for me. Sophrosyne was one of the good spirits released into the world when Pandora opened her box. She was the spirit of temperance, self restraint and discretion. The concept of sophrosyne was very important to ancient Greeks but is difficult to translate into English. It reflects a wholeness, enlightenment obtained through excellence of character, a sound mind and a healthy body. Socrates believed that obtaining knowledge of oneself and living virtuously were far more important than material wealth and riches. Perhaps sophrosyne it can best be sumarised through two sayings from the Oracle of Delphi ‘Know Thyself’ and ‘Nothing In Excess’.

Sophrosyne - temperance - Tarot

Living within the limits of reason and nature through practical wisdom and self-knowledge is something that appeals to me very much. It implies a deep peace with where you’re at, allowing yourself to be imperfect, accepting your history and your place in the world and living virtuously. That is, living a life respectful of others, of the environment, and of yourself. In many ways I see a growing consciousness of sophrosyne throughout the world – for example environmentalism, the occupy movement, the growing acceptance of homosexual marriages in many countries, the growing popularity of meditation, increased interest in locally-grown and organic foods. Not to say that there aren’t still very deep and very real issues of discrimination and inequality in the world but Temperance is a good reminder of all the positive shifts that are occurring in the global consciousness.

When I think of my younger self, my patterns of behaviour, the way I reacted to challenging events, the way I treated people and how I act now I definitely feel much more connected with my true self than I ever have. I haven’t found a true happiness yet. But I can see myself moving through the world with more compassion, more calmly and with more ease. The fireworks of my youth are largely gone. The fire hasn’t been quenched. There’s still plenty of fire, but it’s definitely been tempered with more water and earth. I am more confident, more at home with myself and more giving to others. Definitely still working at it though. There are miles to go before I sleep.

How about you? How does Temperance show up in your life?

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