Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Rebelling Against My Mother and Our Father

Rider Waite Smith 

Of all the cards in a tarot deck, there is one that, no matter what the deck is, no matter it's depiction, I intuitively stall whenever I see it.  The Hierophant is a card of such diverse meaning, yet I can barely ever feel good about it.
Maybe the lack of organised religion in my formative years had something to do with it, but I highly doubt it, The Hierophant is so much more than that.

As a child my upbringing was always at odds with who I was.  My mother was (and still is) a great believer in acting in a way, so that others judgement of you would be positive.  She was a stickler for convention, for proper manners and etiquette, for dressing as if we were higher up the rung of the social ladder than we really were.  And if you misbehaved by her standards, well, punishment was inevitable.  Firstly by a physical punishment then by emotional withdrawal and ultimately the guilt trip.  Pretty heavy stuff for a 5 year old to have to understand.

My mother was the disciplinarian, the rule maker, the judge, jury and executioner.  My father, he was more like me, laid back, easy going and a free spirit.  He was a hard worker, a provider, and an ally.

Looking back, and being of an age where I now understand my mother's story, I can see why she had the belief that, as a girl, I was supposed to be the epitome of coy and demure sensitivity.

My mother was the third of 4 sisters, born between the mid 1930s and early 1940s, her mother, prior to marriage had been employed as a lady's maid, her mother before her was 'in service' too  A job that demanded a strict etiquette and certain social graces for that period. My mother and her sisters were raised with that same etiquette and discipline.  This was what she had been taught and made to believe about how females should conduct themselves.

However, I was the child with my head in the clouds, lost in my little fantasy world and daydreams.  There were no girls of my age where we lived and so I ran wild with the boys.  This frustrated my mother so much.  All the pretty dresses, frilly ankle socks, pretty patent leather dolly shoes were wasted on me, even though I was small for my age, had blonde hair, big blue eyes (everyone used to tell my mother I was like a little doll, ugh!).  This was, I was told, how little girls are meant to be, how I was expected to be, yet I was happiest running barefoot along the road, hair blowing out behind me, dust on my face, playing cops and robbers with the boys.

I didn't want to be like all the 'other little girls', because I wasn't like the other little girls, I was me.  I was just me!  I would question who it was, who said I had to be like the other girls, but was told that is just how it was.

My father, on a weekend would take my brother and me off to explore over the paddocks that were in front of our house, with strict instructions from my mother to keep hold of my hand, don't let me get dirty, and to make sure I behaved, no such rules for my brother though.  Once out of sight, I was allowed to run wild, I learned how to throw a boomerang, I played football, went for a paddle in the stream, whilst my brother looked on in total amusement and encouragement.  My darling dad would get us almost in sight of our house, then dust me down, wipe my face with his handkerchief and tie my hair back into its ponytail as best he could, then return us home having 'obeyed orders'.

I didn't or couldn't be the young lady my mother wanted me to be, I just knew I had to allow my energy, my spirit to run in the direction it wanted to.  As young as I was I felt stifled by the restraints of 'convention', like trying to hold in a sneeze that you can feel coming, it may work for a short time, but it will soon burst forth with force, but my mother just couldn't understand that.

Even to this day, I fail to conform, I live as who I am comfortable to be.  I still see the look on my mother's face and hear her sigh if frustration as I add another tattoo to my vast collection, as I crop my hair close to my head.  I turn up to functions in my jeans, with paint on my hands and a half eaten packet of mints in my bag. I laugh at the most inappropriate times (and inappropriate things), I kick off my shoes, curl my legs up on chairs and rest my elbows on tables. I will go and play water fights with the children outside, run to the ice cream van in an excitable puppy like manner (and ask for every topping available on my ice cream).  I'll eat starters as a main course, ask for ketchup in a restaurant and use a spoon to eat the foam from my cappuccino.  Whose rule says I shouldn't do these things?  Bring their head to me on a plate!

So I suppose one of my issues with The Hierophant is my non-conformity.  If I am told something as a truth, I question it, I want to know who says it must be so.  Authority can and should be questioned, if you want people to behave a certain way or believe in something, your argument for it must be valid, it has to be able to hold water.  You have to show that it is something that enriches and empowers the individual and the majority, but can still evolve with our ever changing world.

The 'teacher'( or preacher) that is The Hierophant possibly represents that part of my upbringing, that outdated belief that I should be shy and retiring, looking pretty and dead behind the eyes.  Demanding that it not be questioned, or running the risk of punishment or ostracism if you do.

The other thing that stalls me with The Hierophant is the religious symbolism usually portrayed within the card.  I have nothing against any organised  religion, if that is what you choose to follow, then I'm happy that you have something that gives you peace and meaning in your life, however, for me, it just doesn't work.

These are my opinions and I do not wish to offend anybody, so please do not think I am making any personal attacks here, that is not my intention.  However as a student of tarot, my views on the cards are personal to me and based on my beliefs and experiences.

It is concerning when you realise how many wars have been started, fought and lost in the name of religion.  Persucution and execution performed in its name.  Where is the love, compassion and unity that it preaches?  Why are some sections of society turned into pariahs depending on the dogma of a particular religion?

And, as with all institutions that hold any kind of power, it is open to corruption and abuse of that power.  It then allows those who are guilty of any kind of misdeeds, to hide behind its doors, covering up the stains on its reputation, making all the right noises, but doing little to make any of their people culpable.

And these are the people we allow to dictate our moral code, we aren't expected to and discouraged from questioning their ethics, their policies or their honesty.  We are told their 'truths' and are expected to follow an 'etiquette' from a long gone societal structure into our modern world.  When the shift came is irrelevant, but the fact that it did is highly relevant and religion needs to adapt.  Obviously some are trying,but that is more thanks to individual religious teachers.  Peter Owen Jones is an Anglican clergyman who is a progressive 'man of the church' and has a talent for exploring where the Christian teachings fit into today's society, putting it on film and sharing his explorations with the world (you can find his BBC documentaries on YouTube).

Nobody is infallible, it is what makes us human, however when someone is in the position of being the intermediary of the people and their god, then they have a responsibility to act in a way that is beyond question, for these are the people who teach us what is acceptable within that faith and, in their belief, the world.  If they are not prepared to adhere to these beliefs then what chance for anyone else.

Obviously not all religious teachers are like this, a few bad apples and all that, yet it brings in doubt as to the credibility of the religious institutions.

This is why I have respect for Buddhism, it allows the free thinker to participate, it encourages the follower to question it and work with the parts of its teachings that fit.  It doesn't ask for blind devotion, nor encourage it. It calls itself a philosophy or way of life, even the Dalai Lama, when asked about his religion will tell people, his religion is kindness.  His way of life is Buddhist, but that is not his religion.

So until tarot decks have His Holiness's smiling, serene image on card number 5, I am always going to stall when this card comes up.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

A Surreality Check

Image from 
I love those random moments in life that make you stop and think, 'What the heck just happened?'

My cards for Monday were 4 of Swords, The Tower and The Fool.  My first thought was panic,  could it be that while I was sleeping my house would collapse and I'd have to become a vagrant. Luckily it was nothing so drastic, in fact my day took a very surreal turn.

Yes, Monday held one of those moments.  It was a moment that, afterwards, gave me such a good vibe, I could feel the positive energy just oozing from me.

I decided to join my daughter whilst she walked her unexhaustable dog Elphie through some local woods, as it was a beautiful day, sunny with a slight breeze, and far too nice to spend in the house.  I just felt the need to recharge my batteries with some earth energy and the woods was just the right place to go.

Now Elphie is a 5 month old Border Collie from farm stock, she is obedient, fast and tireless so a good walk was needed to burn some excess energy, because walking for miles through the Yorkshire countryside the day previous just hadn't cut the mustard with her.

After slipping her leash in the woods, Elphie  found a pug who seemed more than happy to play, and as we walked a conversation between the pug's owner and ourselves started.  There was an energy coming from him that seemed to click with me immediately, however my daughter thought I'd lost all reasoning, as I am usually very guarded around strangers.

However, this man was interesting, articulate, quirky even, and the conversation felt easy and refreshing.  As we meandered along the track, the pug's owner asked if we knew what the building on the river bank opposite was.  When  I looked through the trees, I was so taken aback, as the building was actually the farm where Elphie, the dog, was born, her birth home.  

Not realising that we had walked so far from our usual path, this lovely man kept us talking, he asked about our jobs, our family and about Elphie.  But surprisingly it didn't feel odd, it was a comfortable conversation, there was a familiarity about him, but I could not recall from where.

He took us walking on paths and tracks we had never been on before, showed us some of the best views of the woods and before we knew it we had been walking for almost an hour and a half.  Both dogs still going strong.

When we eventually returned to the car park, we were re-leashing the dogs, when this gent, eventually introduced himself.  And then the penny dropped, he is a stand up comic, well known, and just back from the Edinburgh Festival.

I couldn't believe we had spent nearly 2 hours with him, rambling and chatting about life in  general, laughing at the intricacies of life and had totally failed to notice who he was.  But he was a pleasure to talk to, down to earth and engaging.  He had shared things about his personal life, his family and the love for his dog.  We talked about toddler tantrums, our rather more comical parenting fails, and our jobs-we-hate-but-have-no-choice-but-to-do.

And the nicest thing, the thing that really lifted me, was the way he thanked my daughter and I for making his walk a joy and sharing our day with him.  He thanked Elphie as well for keeping his dog company too. 

But here was a man, with tv appearances under his belt, a venue at the Edinburgh Festival and who does nationwide comedy tours, thanking us for making his day.  It certainly made me feel, somehow humble, that my company (and my daughters) in a rather bizarre situation would be seen as something special.

It definitely instills my belief that, being true to who you really are, being honest and open and accepting of others, brings a certain energy that can be seen and felt by others.  Of all the dog walkers in those woods, how had it been us who clicked?  The strangest thing is this man's dog doesn't usually enjoy the company of other dogs, Elphie is usually very submissive to other dogs, and yet they played chase, hide and seek like old friends, but never went far from us or each other. 

Maybe these dogs sensed the energy flow, maybe it was their energy that drew us humans together.  I will probably never know, all I know is, out of the many bizarre days I have had in my life (and oh boy! there have been many), this one stands out on top.  I mean how many times in your life do you ramble through the woods with a celebrity and his dog in tow and to be thanked for your company, for being entertaining, interesting and 'real'. 

For me, I feel that never would I have seen any of this when I pulled my cards that morning, but looking back, it made perfect sense, in a surreal kind of way.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Embracing the Darkness

Back, L - R Chronicles of Destiny Fortune Cards by Josephine and Emily Ellershaw, Oracle of Visions by Ciro Marchetti
Fey Tarot by Mara Agham and  Ricardo Minetti, front center Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen
Recently I've noticed the days here are starting to get considerably shorter, as summer starts to loosen it's hold  Just weeks ago it was possible to enjoy sitting out in the garden until almost bed time.  Now it has turned cooler and my nights need a focus.

I've taken the opportunity to prepare in advance for how I shall invest my time and gave into the urge to splurge.  

Three of the four items I bought had been sitting on my wishlist since their respective release dates.  Chronicles of Destiny Fortune Cards (Shiffer Publishing) sparked my interest due to its unique reading method.  So far I've used it only for a couple of daily draws.  To say it has been spookily accurate is an understatement.  Although it may be a while before I take them 'out to play', as I'm a little bit besotted with them and don't want to share.  (Imagine a woman in her late forties, clutching the box and throwing a tantrum while shouting 'but they're mine, waaaaaah!!!!'  Embarrassing, I know) 

The next item that mysteriously ended up tumbling off my wish list and into my eager little hands was Oracle of Visions (US Games Systems).  I am a huge fan of Ciro's Legacy of the Divine Tarot deck.  This deck and I go back a few years, and I understand some people don't like digitally designed deck's (some are truly awful), but this deck really speaks to me, it's vibrant and chatty and having been in its bag for a few months, it likes to have a catch up.  It never disappoints.  This spurred me to get Oracle of Visions, having seen the images online I knew I had to have it.  Heck! I even started my journal on it before I even had the deck.  The artwork doesn't just speak to me, it sings, like John Owen Jones. It hits the emotions, triggers the intuition and just sends me off into a rather surreal land in my head. But it makes sense to me,  even without 'definitions' (which I actually prefer).

The final 'oops how did that get in my basket' purchase was, of course Benebell Wen's Holistic Tarot.  After all the amazing reviews and write ups I knew I had to have it.  I love Benebell's blog and the tone of the book is similar. It's easy to read and understand.  The chapters are not heavily laden with jargon.  I'm loving what I have read so far (and given the size of the book, percentage wise it's not much).

My final purchase was only by coincidence.  I've liked the look of Fey Tarot (Lo Scarabeo) for a long time, but always prioritised other decks on my wish list. As much as I like a lot of Lo Scarabeo deck's, the accompanying LWB leaves much to be desired
For 5 days running, this deck kept popping up, on blogs, in exchange readings,on the temptation feed Amazon put on your personal page, you know the one.........other things we think you may like.  Never ever be tempted to look, it's a trap!!!!!  So I decided, there must be a reason this deck is haunting my every online moment.  There it was an 'as new' copy for not a lot of money, so I guessed why not.  I got a good bargain, but imagine my utter joy to find the full companion book for sale too, for less than £2.  (Ironically this was delivered 3 days before the cards arrived).  The book has delightful preliminary sketches of card details as done by Mara Agham, and goes into detail of how she expanded or even changed her original artwork to capture, what is a lovely, readable deck. 

So now that the nights are drawing in, and the neighbours retreat behind their front doors earlier than of late, I'm content to retreat too.  I have new worlds to visit, new lands to explore, oh, and a Christmas list to compile. I'll be heading over to Amazon then to re-categorise my wish list, (just a subtle hint to my family, if you're reading this)

Saturday, 8 August 2015

On The Road To Somewhere

Image from

After a huuuuuge hiatus, I'm back.  I make no excuses or apologies.  I needed time away, so I gave myself permission to take it.

I haven't been entirely idle, I have embraced the time and utilised it to do some much neglected art journalling, reading, and catching up with myself.  I even went back over my Self Love September notes from last year, just to see how far I had come.  So imagine my absolute joy when I heard Kelly-Ann was doing another one this year.  
You can find the details HERE 

When I started the Self Love September last year, I had, 6 months earlier, come out of a severe depressive episode, I was still fragile, sensitive and having days when even getting dressed seemed like an insurmountable task.  I had thrown myself into my tarot studies more as a distraction than anything.  It was something I realised that the people around me didn't comprehend, so it became a way to shut myself off from them.  I had never realised there was such a big community on the internet until I stumbled onto youtube.  That was my turning point, when I realised that this was something that wasn't a distraction, it was actually my focus.  

Doing practice spreads whilst I was reading the copious amount of tarot books I had, made me realise that the cards were giving me help........ not predictions, but actual advice.  VIII Strength was my stalker, as was XIII Death and XVI The Tower.  At first my understanding of these 3 cards was skewed, I felt it was predicting more trouble, more problems, until I began to realise they were actually trying to help me get my life back on track.

All I wanted was the 'old me' back, to feel the way I used to about life, it was like a mantra, I would cry every morning, beg every night for this. Eventually I realised those cards were trying to tell me, I would never be the 'old me'.  My situation had ensured that could not be.  I had to leave the 'old me' behind, if I didn't I wouldn't have learned the lesson I needed to, that my life was being who others wanted me to be and it wouldn't get any better if I didn't make the change.  What I had to do was accept the 'me' that I was now. 

As The Tower was telling me, everything I had before, everything I believed, trusted and 'knew' was gone.  I had to build a new foundation, one from my own strength and build it back up.  It was slow sometimes unsteady, I felt like I was having to metaphorically keep taking bricks out that didn't fit and replace them.  I'm still "under construction' but I am getting there.

Once I found the online community, my mental state began to improve, here were people I could learn from, talk with, share ideas with and they didn't have to know my past, I didn't even have to get dressed to speak with them, they wouldn't know if I was in my PJ's at 3pm nor would they probably care.

So when I read about Self Love September 2014, I knew I had to do it.   Having followed The Four Queens' blog and YouTube channel for a while I realised this young woman was someone very special, with something amazing to give.  I felt that Self Love could benefit me, it was what I was lacking in my foundation.  Prior to participating, I was too busy appeasing everyone around me, the usual responses from me were; 
No, really, it's fine.
Of course I don't mind.
If you want me to.
No, don't apologise, it's just me being oversensitive.

Now I happily stand in my own power, because the 'me' I became has needs and wants, just as much as everyone around me.  If I can't address those with priority then how can I address other people's.  If I'm not happy at core level, how am I to to be happy for others.  My responses also address my needs too, they have become;

I'm not able to as I have other commitments  (even if that commitment is soaking in a bubble bath, I promised it to myself and you don't break promises especially to those you love).
I don't want to go........ (insert activity/place you have absolutely no interest in here) as it's not my 'thing'.
No! (no further explanation needed to justify this)
I haven't blogged, because I wanted to do something else.

Last year helped me so much to start to understand that I was important, I have a spirit that needs nurturing, an inner child that needs to play, and the inner strength to be and do these things

So I am eagerly anticipating September I know I'll be participating, journalling, creating and reaffirming that I am indeed special, as we all are.  If we can't tell ourselves that and believe it, then it will make no difference, at our core level, how many times other people tell us.

This time 4 years ago, I was in hell. 
This time last year I was in the proverbial tunnel, walking towards that glimmer of light.
And now, I am exactly where I need to be at this moment.