Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I am very superstitious, oh yeah. Once upon a time I tried to hide that truth. Then for awhile I attempted to pump it up, make it sound important or relevant, or like my superstitiousness was in some way part of my psychic powers. For heaven's sake. These days I try to accept it, no more, no less either.

There are just three major arcana trumps I haven't yet talked about on the sidebar. I put off writing about these three because they are not images or energies I enjoy wrestling with. I will write today about Death and the Devil here in a post while leaving the gracious and powerful Temperance on the sidebar. If you want to see the images that go along with these cards, google death+tarot or devil+tarot and click on images. I have no need to post those images here.

I guess I could skip writing about Death, eh? Birth and Death are THE two mysteries, yes? Oh yeah. What could I possibly say about Death that hasn't been written about extensively (and far more eloquently)?

Within the tarot, naming the deep truths about Death (also the Devil) is avoided at all costs. Every book I've read about the tarot states straightaway that the Death card does NOT refer to Death. Huh? Me thinks the Emperor has no clothes! The Death trump is about transformation, or so say the people who write books about tarot. Terms like "dramatic change" appear often in describing the card. Euphemisms, yes? I say yes. I've even read that Death points towards intense sexual encounters. Imagine me with a look of incredulity on my face, shaking my head back and forth slowly. I don't know about you, but intense sex makes me feel ALIVE, not dead. I don't get it.

Death is the end, the mysterious end that no one can explain. It kind of bugs me that within the world of tarot, we can't call a spade a spade. Maybe the people who write the books are even more superstitious than I am. Who knows?

'Nuff said on that one! On to the Devil trump. This is another card that people who write about tarot are reluctant to face head on. In many decks, the Devil is portrayed as Pan, a randy, sexual, goat-like dude frolicking in the forest. Poor Pan - why oh why do we think of him as the Devil? He didn't do anything wrong.

Another approach tarot writers and designers take is to say the Devil is not real. It's interesting because the energies of the other trumps are never discounted (except for the Death card, that is). It is true that, if you've made a deal with the Devil, that contract can always be broken. Waking up and refusing to take a destructive path, or shaking loose from the prison you believe yourself to be trapped within, is what the Tower card is all about. (The Tower card follows the Devil in the sequence of the major arcana.) But the Devil is REAL. What I mean is, the tendency to think, "I can't," the energy that surrounds feeling trapped, stuck or the belief that anyone or anything has real power over you - that is very real. The Devil card points to the reality of all kinds of delusions, especially the painful ones like paranoia, fear, jealousy, bitterness and such. The Devil governs addictions and obsessions, arrogance, all feelings of disconnection and helplessness, and all the awful ways we humans act out these miserable states of being. Tell me that isn't real! C'mon.

Inbetween Death that is not death, and the Devil who is not real (or so they say) is the beautiful, competent, focused, gentle Temperance. Sometimes I think she's placed between the rock and the hard place to help us settle down when we get all activated over the two energies that must not be acknowledged. Temperance whispers, "There, there! It's OK. You'll be ok. Here - have a sip of my medicinal brew."

Now you see why I love Temperance so much? I mean really, what's NOT to love?

Tomorrow I'll write on the sidebar about Judgment after which I'm done with the major arcana. It has been a very fun project. Thanks, y'all, for listening/reading.


Reya Mellicker said...

Because I am superstitious, I posted a bunch of beautiful energy filtering flower pics.

So silly! Oh well.

Rebecca Clayton said...

When I was an English major, I spent my time with the medieval and Elizabethan poets, and they used the same symbols in poetry that turn up in the Tarot. My beloved John Donne was especially into the "Death = Sex" symbolism, and his naughty youthful love poems use elaborate love/death conceits. ("A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" and "The Relic" are favorites of mine, but there are lots and lots....)

The Elizabethans tossed around the idea that the time you spend having orgasms is deducted from your life expectancy, but most agreed that it was worth it.

Of course, for women, because pregnancy and childbirth were potentially life-threatening, sex might equal death, but since they didn't write much that has survived, we know less about what they thought.

After John Donne's wife died (from childbirth-related causes), his poems about death were all serious, grown-up meditations on mortality and God and sin. (the Devil?)

Interesting things to think about. I'm glad you showed lots of pretty peonies and roses!

ellen abbott said...

I'm enjoying your posts on the major arcana. But, did you do the Sun? I don't recall seeing it.

Jo said...

Ha! I wondered if that was the purpose of your beautiful flowers!

I've loved this series of posts, and have learned so much about he interpretations of the art and symbols of tarot.

In fact, I would like to request that you continue to rotate the side bars you've created as refresher courses for us. I know it had to be quite time consuming to create them, and I'd love to have them to refer to more often...thank you very much!

Kerry said...

The heavenly flower pics are perfect.

Since I know almost nothing about tarot cards I have really enjoyed your interpretation of them; I always thought they were cool-looking & now I understand more about what they symbolize. Thanks!

Reya Mellicker said...

Rebecca, John Donne is one of my favorites as well. I had no idea that the Elizabethans thought orgasm took time off your lifespan. Wow. I believe they lengthen life, but then I am an aging hippie, still longing for the age of "free love."

Love is no longer free. Sounds like it wasn't during John Donne's lifetime either. How sad.

Ellen I did do the Sun, and oh god Jo, I didn't save any of those interpretations. I wrote strictly off the cuff, choosing the major arcana that would go with the day's post.

It would not be hard to recreate what I said, though. I know the trumps. I mean the TAROT trumps. Glad not to know the Donald Trumps, oh yeah!

Reya Mellicker said...

I just realized that Temperance is my favorite "bartender." She really is

Harlequin said...

Ha...When you wrote that Birth and Death were THE two mysteries, I thought, "What about sex?!" and then you go and write about sex makes you feel alive.

Love it.

(There's a guy whose podcast I listen to and he says that there are three great mysteries in life, and you only get to do one of them over and over again...gotta love that)

Reya Mellicker said...

Clearly it has been way too long, because I don't remember the mystery part of sex. The powerful part, yes, the connections and trance states, of course. I remember the pleasure, but I have no sense that it is a mystery. Am I crazy?

Love, to me, is a mystery - but sex? Is there something wrong with me?

Harlequin said...

Nope...nothing wrong with you at all.

I most definitely get that birth and death are great mysteries (even though I think it's funny that we will never remember our own, at least not on a conscious, accessible level), but I think sex is a different kind of mystery.

Love, I agree, is a Mystery, with a capital M. But sex, to me, is something completely different. When engaged in from a place of love, then something happens that doesn't generally occur during other acts of love. Maybe we need a word for sex/love? Is that a flaw in the human language? (Although, obviously we can have one without the other!!!)

Anyway, who are we to limit the number of mysteries? To me, baking a cake is a Holy Mystery!!

Harlequin said...

Argh, I meant *English* language.

Reya Mellicker said...

Yeah why not welcome the mysteries? Why the hell not?

Part of what makes birth and death mysterious is the fact that they happen once, just once.

Reya Mellicker said...

OK I figured it out, Harlequin. After birth and death NOTHING is ever the same again. After sex, even incredible sex, there is a cigarette, but then everything goes back to normal.

Reya Mellicker said...

Actually I have never smoked a cigarette after sex. Now THAT - the desire to do so - THAT is a mystery!

Tom said...

gorgeous imagery indeed- and thanks for the lowdown on tarot...kindasorta interesting

Reya Mellicker said...

Really Tom? Wow.

glnroz said...

i bought i deck of Tarot cards some time back. (i dont know them and wanted to learn). Thanks for the "lessons". I still dont know them, but i enjoy hearing you define/explain,,,plus hell, I just like coming here,,lol

Reya Mellicker said...

Glenn, how cool. Which deck do you have?

glnroz said...

The Medieval, Scapini Tarot, by Luigi Scapini