The Heirophant and the King of Wands

Okay, I’ll admit — sometimes I look for the easy way out.

It’s a habit I’ve slipped into over the course of several years, pushed by the need to find easier ways to do pretty much everything. When you regularly forget you’ve let the stove on (until the smoke alarm reminds you), you find easier ways. When it’s tough to stand in the shower without falling over from vertigo, you find easier ways. Sometimes, finding the easy way isn’t a bad thing. Besides, laziness creates efficiency.

Unfortunately, there’s no substitute for hard work.

I have a lot of goals right now, which I won’t enumerate here so I don’t jinx myself. For most of them, there is no easy way. (Gods know I’ve looked.) One or two I’ve managed to make a lot of headway on the past few days, bolstered by last week’s Knight of Swords.

For this week, I didn’t do my usual one-card reading. Instead, I used one I reserve for times of frustration. I don’t put much stock in mediumship as a rule, but there’s someone I connect with through the Queen of Wands. When I want their advice, or even just an encouraging word or two, I shuffle my deck, seek out the Queen, and look at the cards immediately in front of and behind her. The one in front may be an obstacle; the one behind, the solution. Sometimes the one in front is a situation, and the one behind is the context. Sometimes the one in front is a problem, and the one behind is the outcome. It depends.

Today, she was sitting between The Heirophant and, oh hey, it’s your boy the King of Wands again.

kingwands

Okay, it’s not a traditional depiction of the King of Wands, but it’s still my favorite. 

The Heirophant is a card that comes up for me fairly often, usually when I need to stop trying to reinvent the wheel. He’s old-school, traditional, pragmatic, and conventional. Here, he’s a reminder that, sometimes, the only way out is through. There is no substitute for doing things the old-fashioned way, and sometimes that means hard work.

The King of Wands is a creative force. He’s a charismatic leader, able to bring ideas to fruition. I went a bit deeper into him in a previous post, but his appearance here is… interesting, to say the least. Before, he was a sign that I achieve what I want as long as I put some energy and focus behind it. Now, he’s here with The Heirophant to call me out.

It’s disheartening, but I know it’s true. I can achieve the things I want, but most of them are going to take an old-fashioned approach — and, in all likelihood, more energy than I have right now. Sometimes there just isn’t a way to make things easier on myself, but, buoyed by the promise of the Ace of Wands and the Knight of Swords, I still have hope.

Now I just need to keep my choroid plexus from kicking my ass..

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Knight of Swords

Last week came with a lot of downtime, interspersed with bursts of activity. Most of my S.O.’s time was taken up by studying for an important certification exam (he passed!), while mine was eaten up by writing for clients, working on my own projects, and dealing with medicals. I have more tests coming up this week, and, at times, it feels like they’re never-ending. It’s had my energy at a pretty low ebb — it’s hard to rouse myself to do anything beyond the bare necessities when I’m feeling poorly as it is, and upcoming medical stuff hangs over my head like a cartoon anvil.

It’s a bit disappointing after last week’s Ace of Wands. I have so many ideas and places I want to devote my energy to, but not enough to go around. If I try to spread myself thinner, something inevitably suffers for it. It’s a frustrating position to be in, but it can’t last forever… Can it?

So, I drew a card to see what this week has in store for me. More waiting and brainstorming, or will I finally be able to start to see some things through?

I drew the Knight of Swords.

Knight on horseback on a crackled brown background.

Not actually from a tarot deck, but I thought it was pretty cool.

In many (though not all) decks, the Knight of Swords shown riding at a swift pace. His is  an energetic, active state. He is ambitious, quick-witted, and driven and, once his mind is made up, few things are able to get in his way.

He is basically the polar opposite to how I’m feeling right now, to be honest.

In The Crow Tarot, the Knight of Swords indicates an energetic start to a new project. Following the Ace of Wands, it’s a really good sign — the Ace of Wands is the seed, and the Knight of Swords is the energy of germination. He shows that there is a lot of potential here, and the strength to see it through. It’s not all roses, however, since he is no more a guarantee of success than the Ace of Wands is. It’s still possible to screw up, even in the face of these two very good omens, by acting without thought.

Really, this comes at a good time for me. I’m feeling low-energy, but knowing that my ideas have potential helps give me some impetus to see them through. By the same token, not having the energy to spare means that I’m more likely to apply it carefully, and avoid wasting it on frivolous pursuits. With the potential of the Ace of Wands and the strength and warnings of the Knight of Swords, I feel like I’m in a pretty good place.

Here’s hoping I’m right.

Ace of Wands

Few things feel as nice as a new beginning — that’s why I like the Aces so much.

They’re a fresh start, the energy of limitless potential. They’re a blank page, an unlocked door, and a new day. They’re the impetus to take the first step on a journey of a thousand miles.

The Ace of Wands card from the Rider-Waite deck.

From the Rider-Waite deck, illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith.

I didn’t have anything in particular in mind when I drew this week’s card. I’m still working on things from last week, still looking forward to more medical tests. Sometimes, it’s just nice to have the encouragement that I’m going the right way.

It’s hard to interpret aces, sometimes. While they have the energy of all of that possibility, that’s all it is: possibility. Tarot never guarantees anything, aces doubly so. They’re the seed of an idea that needs effort to grow. They’re a promising opportunity, but only an opportunity.

I always seem to draw Wands when I have something creative going on. In this case, it’s the fact that holy crap I am completely sick of figuring out how to display things, I mean damn.

See, pre-stretched canvas is expensive, unwieldy, and difficult to store and ship. Canvas stretchers are cheaper, but still need space to store. Roll canvas is less expensive to buy, and easier to ship and store, but it’s also more difficult to work with and a pain to display. Want to frame it? Good luck — unless it’s smaller than 11×14, you’re probably going to have to figure out how to either stretch or mount it first. Hopefully there’s room to stretch it without losing any of the image! Good luck with mounting, too, because any permanent mount will decrease the piece’s lifespan (and probably its value),

I have a plan, I think, albeit a harebrained one. I’ve no idea if it’ll work. It’ll look really neat if it does, but will also involve ignoring a lot of what I’ve been taught and picking up a few new skills. It’ll be interesting to try, if nothing else, and the Ace of Wands indicate that it might not actually be a bad idea!

The Ace of Wands can also indicate an opportunity for personal growth. I’m hoping it’s pointing to my doctor’s appointments later this week — if I can get that resolved, if I can put those years of pain and frustration behind me, it’ll open up more opportunities than I can even begin to imagine.

Either way, I have a lot to look forward to.

 

Death of the (Tarot) Artist

There’s an idea in literary criticism called the “death of the author.”

It’s not a literal death — just a very stark metaphorical distancing. It pretty much means that, when it comes to interpreting a work, the creator’s context and intentions should be ignored in favor of an interpretation of the text as it stands. There are certainly some works that benefit greatly from the inclusion of the author’s context, but there are flaws inherent in binding a work — any work — so tightly to its creator.

The concept was described by a French literary critic and philosopher named Roland Gérard Barthes, who felt strongly that keeping the interpretation of a text tied to the author’s biases was limiting, as well as innately flawed. By contrast, ignoring the author’s intentions freed the text to be analyzed and criticized entirely on its own merits and message, while erasing the issue of putting words in the author’s mouth.

It’s a thing that crosses art forms. Visual arts resist interpretation a bit more strongly than the written word (either fortunately or unfortunately, there is no OED for imagery. Unlike language, pictures don’t need to be mutually intelligible). Freeing an image from the creator means the meaning of a piece is left entirely up to what it is able to communicate to a viewer. At most, the interpretation of a piece in the context of the creator is only one of many facets of it. To (mis)quote Barthes, “a[n image’s] unity lies not in its origins […] but in its destination.”

I remember learning to read tarot. It wasn’t a thing that interested me much, initially — I liked runes, geomancy, Ogham staves, things whose imagery was far simpler, but contained multitudes. (And seemed to involve a hell of a lot less rote learning.)

“Read it like a story,” my teacher urged.

But the trouble with learning to read tarot cards is that it feels like a lot to memorize. You have your deck, which, at first, seems impossibly thick. You have the little soft-cover booklet with its handful of keywords, or a short paragraph for each card. “The Three of Wands,” it helpfully tells you, “Progress, expansion, opportunity. Reversed: Delays, short-sightedness.” You might read this book, using the cards like flash cards to test yourself on the meanings. Finally, one day, you’ve achieved memorization.

 

2ofcups

And then you get a new deck.

I want to preface this by explaining that I’m not suggesting that the traditional interpretations of tarot cards be thrown out entirely. Part of tarot’s enduring appeal is the universality of it as a means of self-insight, as much as divination. Those meanings endure because… well, they’re meaningful to us.
But there’s something to be said for burning that little book.

My S.O. didn’t read tarot when he met me. If you ask him today, he still probably wouldn’t consider himself a tarot reader, per se. But, between the two of us, we still have six decks — three apiece. One has beautiful imagery surrounding Nuestra Señora de la Santa Muerte, another is based on the works of Klimt, two others are animal-themed, yet another is based on the works of Mucha, one is full of strange, surreal moon-faced figures, and yet another is a joke deck I helped create to raise money for charity. All of them are tarot decks, with their Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired tableaux — The Fool, The Chariot, and so forth. All of them have subtly different meanings for their cards.

Reading tarot intuitively is a means of getting information without memorization, and it works because of the death of the artist. When you set the book aside, you free yourself to receive only what the artwork is giving you. The creation of a tarot deck is a deliberate act — every image is chosen or created with care based on the feelings it evokes, the ideas it conjures up, or its place in the visual language of alchemy. Allowing the artist to “die” frees us from adhering to the interpretations handed to us.

 

 

The King of Cups

Even with all of the reassurance I had from last week’s cards, I still went into my appointment on edge.

(Okay, so I had a full blown panic attack and had to ask the receptionist if there was somewhere I could lay down and try to relax. Everyone was incredibly chill and understanding about it, though, which was nice.)

The parking garage felt claustrophobic. I had to ride in a hot, stuffy elevator. I had no idea what kind of tests would be required of me, and knew this might be my only chance to have them. What if the doctor asked for twelve tubes of blood again? What if I couldn’t convince them to take my blood pressure at the end of the appointment, instead of the beginning?

As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry. Not only was everyone really kind and reassuring, my nurse practitioner is awesome. I was never made to feel that I was wasting her time. She thoroughly explained everything to me. She took my medical history with no fuss, no sighing, and no muttering. There were no awkward first-visit dives into my parent’s marital history. I left the office feeling empowered, like I knew what was going on. I have hope that, even if the h. pylori test is negative, there are other possibilities. I also have samples of FDgard, which I didn’t even know was a thing before this.
I’m probably fixable, you guys.

(The real kicker, though, was finding out that I shouldn’t’ve had the h. pylori test in the first doctor’s office to begin with. I had no idea that using antacids in the previous two weeks might alter the result — I could’ve ended up with a false negative, wasting more of both his time and mine for nothing.)

So, now I’m pretty much just dealing with the symptoms for another week and a half until I can get a few more tests. I just have to wait.

I’m not good at waiting. I can be patient, but I hate the powerless feeling of sitting on my hands as minutes to become hours and hours to become days. I didn’t even have any good questions for my tarot deck this time — I just wanted to know what kind of energy this week is bringing. What can I focus on to help the time pass?

I drew King of Cups.

Cups is the suit of the emotions, and the King is the master of them. He is relaxed, balanced between the heart and the mind, neither devoid of reason nor incapable of empathy. When he turns up, it’s an invitation to explore the feelings around a situation — are there emotional factors that are making things more difficult than they need to be?

… Yeeeah, kinda.

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy managing my physical symptoms. While I know that they aren’t caused by stress or fear, the anxiety they trigger still needs managing. When I do self-work, I usually focus on panic disorder and finding ways to manage unpreventable panic attack symptoms as they arise. Now, I should probably look more deeply into strategies for managing my medical anxiety, specifically — it’s going to be hard to go through rounds of testing and follow-up visits if I can barely make myself walk through the door.

Besides, I’ve got time to kill.

 

The Two of Cups

Can I complain about stomachs for a bit?

My life has been pretty limited by health issues for awhile — I don’t just mean intracranial hypertension, either. I try not to dwell on it, because that’s not really helpful for me. If anything, it just keeps me from being useful when and where I can.

Sometimes, though? I just want to be a gigantic baby about it, dammit.

Part of my problem is a digestive issue that, to date, three different ERs, five doctors, a barium swallow, three ultrasounds, four x-rays, and countless dietary adjustments have not solved. There’s still a lot of diagnoses to rule out (I’ve never been scoped, or tested for H. pylori, Celiac disease, or SIBO, for example), but it’s been a long slog finding a doctor willing to pursue things and not just shrug and hand me a PPI . I’ve been told to “come back if it still isn’t better in a week” when it hasn’t been better in years, and, when I do, it’s another shrug and a recommendation to try fasting for a day.

If I fasted every time I felt sick, I’d be dead.

Getting insurance was a pain. Finding a doctor who I felt confident would actually help me continues to be a pain. Some won’t do anything for me because they have no experience with idiopathic IH (statistically speaking, I’m one of 7 people in this entire city who has it. I guess I can’t be too surprised). It’s frustrating. It’s disheartening. It’s very… physically unpleasant.

Through it, my S.O. has been a huge help. He calls doctors for me, sends in paperwork, deals with the ongoing, complicated mess of adding me to his insurance. Sometimes, I feel powerless not only because I’m physically unwell, but because that illness makes me less able to advocate for myself. I don’t like having him do this, so part of my contribution was hunting down a doctor I thought would be willing to do more than order another ultrasound and ask me, for the nth time, if I’m really, absolutely sure this isn’t all just anxiety. I even found one!

Unfortunately, they don’t answer the phone.

“I can get you an appointment with my doctor,” my S.O. texted me, but I didn’t want to get another five minute visit with someone who’d just order the same tests that were no help the first seventeen times. I didn’t want to go through trying the same handful of acid reducers, only to end up anemic, covered in bruises, and feeling no better. I’d gone through a lot of trouble to find a doctor whose approach seemed like one that would actually help me, who my insurance would cover. We’d already filled out the new patient paperwork and sent it in, why wasn’t this office answering their damn phone? 

I was having a low point when I decided to pull out one of my tarot decks. What could I do to help myself heal? It feels like I’ve tried everything I can, physically speaking. Taking more Mylanta probably isn’t going to help at this point. I had my doubts about eating nothing but banana smoothies for a(nother) month. FODMAPs was already a flop. What else was there for me to do?

2ofcupsThe Two of Cups.

The Cups are the cards of emotions, and the Two of Cups is full of partnership imagery — a pair of figures, the twining snakes of the staff of Hermes. While it doesn’t always mean a romantic partnership, it does point to one where both people are very emotionally invested in the same endeavor.

Right now, my goal is getting well (or, if not well, then at least less awful). I know my S.O. is invested in it, too, or he wouldn’t be filing paperwork and making calls. My approach obviously isn’t working, or I’d have an appointment by now. It seems like I need to defer to the other person in this partnership — he cares about my well-being just as much as I do, just as I care about his. If I’m going to listen to anybody right now, it should probably be the other person with a vested interest on keeping me on the right side of the dirt, you know?

I asked him to call his doctor.

Fingers crossed.

 

The Tom Waits Oracle

“When you are writing, you’re conjuring. It’s a ritual, and you need to be brave and respectful and sometimes get out of the way of whatever it is that you’re inviting into the room.” ― Tom Waits

Ever use shufflemancy? It’s a type of technomancy that relies on shuffling through a collection of music. It could be an album, it could be a playlist of your favorite songs, any sufficiently large number of tunes will do.

Tom Waits has been described as a lot of things: avant-garde, gravelly, whiskey-soaked, experimental, a raconteur. John Hodgman said that “[w]e all hear our own stories in our favorite songs (that is why Tom Waits sings in werewolf language—you can pretend it is about anything you want!),” and I’m inclined to agree.

And so, I tacked together a shufflemancy playlist made up entirely of Tom Waits tracks.

It’s pretty self-explanatory. Clear your head, ask your question, hit shuffle, and listen. (Or, if you’re not using the Spotify app, shut your eyes, scroll, click, and listen.) Do any lyrics leap out at you? What impressions do you get? Let the werewolf troubadour sing(/play/beat the bathroom door with a 2×4) you a divination.