divination, life

The Ten of Swords Strikes Again

Last time I drew the Ten of Swords, it didn’t take long to manifest — by the next day, I was sicker than I think I’ve ever been in my life. I’m hoping that that isn’t the case here, for obvious reasons.

This week, I used the Tarot de Maria Celia again. I’m getting the hang of interpreting the pips cards and, to be honest, it’s become one of my favorite decks. In Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired decks, the Ten of Swords typically shows a dead or distressed figure, stabbed by ten swords.

Swords10
Image from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, artwork by Pamela Coleman Smith.

The Tarot de Maria Celia offers no such imagery; it’s the culmination of the cycle of the suit of Épées, and that can mean a lot of different things.

Don’t get me wrong, none of them are really positive. It can still stand for a time of pain or betrayal. It’s still the end of this pain, though. It’s the last numerical card in the suit, which makes it’s the last low point.

As the suit of the logical mind, the Dix D’Épées can stand for a point where the thiking mind has matured, after a cycle of pain and difficulty. Like the Ten of Swords, it’s also a sudden, crushing loss — the kind I think most of us are feeling right now, in one form or another.

This card can also stand for exhaustion, physical and mental. The Tens of any suit are the ultimate end, after the whole cycle of the suit itself. This can mean enjoying the fruits of your labor, like the Ten of Pentacles. It can also mean collapsing, gasping, at the finish line after you’ve spent yourself going through a gauntlet. With how I’ve been feeling, I can understand that. Exhaustion is a trauma response, and I think we’ve all been going through the wringer.

If the Ten of Swords/Épées offers a hope spot, it’s that things won’t be this way forever. As I mentioned before, it’s the culmination. It’s a card of logic. It says that, if we can take a bird’s eye view of our pain and maintain perspective, we can take solace in the fact that we won’t be suffering forever, and use this opportunity to analyze the situation and figure out how to keep this from happening again.

I can brace myself for bad news, but at least the bad news won’t last.

A sitting meerkat.
Blog, life

Isolation Blues

I’m tired.

Not in the sense that a lot of us are, I don’t think — I’m mentally tired, sure, but I’m so sleepy. Part of it is my body continuing to adjust to having serotonin for the first time in my life, part of it is that it’s March, which means starting up this year’s round of antihistamines. Part of it is a trauma response.

Brains use energy, and a lot of it. Between figuring out how to supply ourselves, stay safe, maintain social distancing, properly decontaminate after venturing out in public, stay sane at home, take care of our children and elderly people, and deal with the constant stress of isolation during a pandemic, a lot of us are burning the candle at both ends and the middle, too. And it’s so tiring.

I’m still watching webinars like they’re going out of style. Still taking Udemy classes. I’ve also been immersing myself into the kind of weird, surrealist nonsense that calls to me — I started playing Dujanah (which is strange, chaotic, haunting, painful, and gorgeous) and AENTITY (as frustrating as it is eerily beautiful) last night, and I’ve got The Dream Machine waiting for me. Re-reading (observing?) the Codex Seraphinianus. Probably going to watch Mononoke later, so I can lose myself in color, pattern, and yokai stories for awhile. Might watch MirrorMask tomorrow.

mirrormask

At times, my building seems normal. The furnace still clunks and bangs, the exit still beeps when you leave it open for too long.

Sometimes, it’s like something out of REC. None of us know how long this is going to last, and I don’t think anyone actually trusts the people in charge to make the right decision anymore. This complex houses a lot of people — some are very old, some are young families. Some have children with neuroatypicalities. Some are mentally ill. Some are dependent on drugs to get through the day. Everyone’s experiencing the isolation differently, and some people are having an easier time weathering it than others. Some days, one of my neighbors wails. Some days, another screams at invisible antagonists in the hallway as he pounds on doors and yanks doorknobs. Some of my neighbors had resources in the community that helped them get through life, whether treatment centers or adult day care. I’m wondering if I should try to go for the lumbar puncture my brain needs, or stay home and hope I don’t have a seizure or lose more of my vision. Everyone’s wearing thin. I wish I had something to offer other than dry pasta and home-made hand sanitizer.

I have rituals, and I have prayers, but there’s a need for more immediate relief. Magically manipulating things on a subtle, energetic level only does so much so quickly, and this reaches farther and moves faster than one person’s energy can.

Thank you for reading here and listening to me kvetch, I’ll resume more upbeat posting (as soon as I’ve been able to have maybe six or seven naps). Here’s hoping this post finds you healthy, at home, with a full pantry and people you like.

 

 

life

Planning, not panicking.

As I write this, my city and the surrounding area are up to 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As someone with health anxiety, it’s hard not to start panicking — reading about it online definitely doesn’t help, neither does watching the U.S. move from containing the virus, to just mitigating the damage it’s causing. Hospitals aren’t prepared. Under the internet’s various slimy rocks, concerns about the virus get dismissed as “propaganda.” People claim that as long as you eat “clean,” exercise, and pray, you won’t get sick.

Unfortunately, viruses don’t read online forum posts.

Getting sick isn’t a moral judgment. It’s not always something that happens because you did something wrong, or didn’t do something else well enough. While the immunocompromised and the elderly are the most at risk, young, otherwise healthy people still get hospitalized with the disease.

So, now what?

Like I said, I have health anxiety. I also don’t know how well a brand-new virus would play with idiopathic intracranial hypertension. (My guess: not super well.) Basic supplies like alcohol-based hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes can’t be had for love nor money. Even getting distilled water for my nepenthes was a challenge.

I’ve inventoried my herbs. I have my healing spells and prayers to Airmid. What’s next?

herbal-tea-1410565_640

Step one, handle the anxiety.

The first thing I did was download this health anxiety workbook. That part’s probably self-explanatory, though. It’s completely free, and covers everything from what health anxiety is, how it influences behavior, how it sustains itself, and strategies to deal with it.

Step two, make a whole lot of porridge.

We stocked up on lentils and rice. I eat a lot of them as it is, so getting a few extra bags wasn’t a stretch. Whenever something comes up that disrupts our lives, I always make a bunch of kitchari — an inexpensive, filling source of carbohydrates and complete protein that’s ideally suited for when you’re not feeling well. I’m planning to measure it into one-cup cubes and stock my freezer. It freezes very well, and reheats in about a minute or two in the microwave. If we get placed under quarantine, it’ll be a fast, easy, comforting source of nutrition.

Two wooden spoons and a small bowl full of dry lentils.
If you are what you eat, I am at least seventy percent lentil.

Step three, buy make hand sanitizer.

Since my partner’s job often places him in groups where constant hand-washing isn’t feasible, and alcohol-based sanitizer has pretty much vanished, I’m going to try to make some. I don’t really recommend doing this if you can avoid it — too little alcohol, and it won’t work. Too much, and it’ll dry your hands out, chapping the skin and increasing the risk of infection. If you have to make your own hand sanitizer, I’d recommend following the World Health Organization’s formulations.

Step four, ditto, but disinfectant.

Same for making disinfectant. Essential oils are great for all kinds of things, but the phenol content is extremely toxic to cats, and essential oil-based cleaners are probably not actually that effective at sanitizing when properly diluted. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control has some good data on using alcohol and hydrogen peroxide as disinfectants. (Isopropanol seems to be in short supply, and I’ve only got about half a bottle left. Grain alcohol can be up to 95% ethanol, however, and hopefully hasn’t been raided yet.)

Other than that, we haven’t stocked up on much. We have some extra toilet paper, paper towels, and soap, a few more pantry staples than usual, and an extra family-sized bottle of ibuprofen. I feel okay about this, though — like we’re prepared, without hoarding to the point of putting more vulnerable people in jeopardy.

I’m hoping for the best.

divination, life

The Star

As much fun as last week was, at times, it absolutely kicked my butt.

I don’t know if you remember when our car got poisoned when we went on that road trip down south, but, between a clunking engine and a cracked windshield, we’d finally decided that it was time for Caliber the Undying to be put out to pasture.

(According to what the trade-in guy said, the pasture appears to be somewhere in eastern Europe.)

So, my S.O. had to get a new car — though by “new,” I mean more like “used, but clean and significantly less likely to turn into smoking rubble on the highway.” Couple that with some late work nights, getting handed a shovelful of writing orders, turning in the corrections for my Druidry coursework, and going out in a crowd for the first time in over a year(!), I’m a little drained.

Please, I silently begged as I shuffled my deck, please just not the Ten of Swords. Or Nine of Swords. Or any of the Swords, to be honest.

Fortunately, I lucked out. This week’s card is The Star.

The Star is a very positive omen — it’s a hope spot. A pause for breath. It comes after The Tower, a card of tremendous upheaval, so it’s common to draw The Star when you’re entering a time of peace, serenity, and optimism after a struggle.

I wouldn’t exactly call what I’ve gone through lately a struggle, of course. While it was a lot of work, and it wore me out, I was glad to do it. (I mean, I’m not exactly going to complain about having too many opportunities to help support my family!) Still, spoons are spoons, and it’s possible to wear yourself out doing things you enjoy.

The Star is a positive omen in virtually every respect, whether you draw it in a Love, Career, Spirituality, or just a general reading. As advice, it asks you to focus on rest and healing — The Tower has fallen, the worst has passed. Marshall your strength and go forward from here. Conditions are favorable, you’re on the right path. Don’t force anything, just let it guide you.

Right now, it’s guiding me to some magnesium oil, a heating pad, and a cup of marshmallow root tea.

Blog, life

Two Bards.

Tuesday night, I had the chance to see Richard Thompson perform live. It’s a show I’ve had on my bucket list ever since I was introduced to him a few years ago — he’s an incredible guitarist, and watching him play is really an amazing experience. When I stopped being able to go out much for awhile, I was legitimately afraid that I wouldn’t get well enough to be able to see him play. I only learned about Coco Robicheaux on the day of his death, and I missed the chance to see Tom Waits (who doesn’t tour very often) perform when I lived in California; two things I consider some of the biggest missed opportunities of my life.

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I think my S.O. and I were the youngest people in the audience by close to twenty or thirty years, which made me a little self-conscious when we were finding seats. (‘Scuse me, sir and/or ma’am, biker punk and tattooed millennial with a shaved head coming through.) As soon as I sat down, though, I didn’t care. I still whooped it up and applauded hard enough to jam one of my fingers.

He’d just started playing “Valerie” when we got in, which is, bar none, my favorite of his songs. It was honestly a little overwhelming — I’m embarrassed to admit it, but my heart skipped a beat and I thought I was going to have a panic attack for a few. I teared up at “Beeswing” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” just like I knew I would. (Lucky for me, I’d had the foresight to forego eye makeup for this exact reason.)

The songs were moving, tragic, and hilarious by turns. His voice and guitar playing were superb. His banter made the venue feel small, with the kind of warmth and humor that turns a show into an intimate gathering.

I loved every minute of it.

And then, the next day, I found out that Terry Jones had died.

He wanted to be remembered as a comedian, but I knew him best as an author long, long before I knew anything about Monty Python’s Flying Circus. When I was a kid, we had a copy of Fairy Tales. It was my favorite children’s book — as a kid, I think I learned more important morals there than almost anywhere else. Like Three Raindrops, which taught me that everyone’s grave is the same size, and there’s no point in wasting your life on comparisons. Or Jack One-Step, which taught me the value of collective bargaining. Or The Glass Cupboard, which, I’m fairly certain, is what turned me into a tiny environmentalist.

monster
And then there’s this guy, which I’m pretty sure figured prominently in my nightmares until I was ten. Artwork by Michael Foreman.

I loved Michael Foreman’s illustrations, too. To be honest, I can’t really overstate the impact they had on my imagination as a kid, or even on my artwork now. His watercolors were at once bright and soft and dreamlike, surreal and strange, occasionally with a subtly unsettling edge. They were the perfect accompaniment to stories like The Fly-By-Night and The Wonderful Cake-Horse.

cakehorse
Illustration for Terry Jones’ The Wonderful Cake-Horse, by Michael Foreman.

I’m much older now, but the stories and illustrations still mean just as much to me.

Jones’ passed after a battle with dementia. As much as we like to think that “where there’s life, there’s hope,” there’s still a very particular kind of mourning that happens when someone passes from a brain disease. There’s the loss you experience when someone is no longer who they once were, and the final loss that comes with death. Sometimes, the hardest thing to deal with is that we might not think we feel “sad enough” when someone actually dies, because we’ve spent so long mourning the person they used to be. It’s something I experienced with my grandmother, as she declined from brain cancer. As hard as it was to handle her passing, I felt guilty for feeling relief. Not for myself — I felt relief that she was beyond the pain, confusion, and anxiety that her illness had caused her.

It’s something I’ve had to come to terms with, too. Intracranial hypertension causes brain damage, and it’s very likely that I will suffer a stroke at some point and either die, or have to fight my way back from that. Sometimes, you have to mourn for yourself. The important thing is to process this grief, then get on with the hard work of living. For Jones, that was raising awareness. For my grandparents, it was my grandfather feeding, dressing, and bathing my grandmother. For me, it’s working a little more every day to try to regain some ground before I lose more of it.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it doesn’t matter if you’re part of an artist’s primary audience. Life’s too short to miss the concert you want to go to, or to overlook a book just because it’s intended for children. Eventually, like the Three Raindrops, we all become part of the same big, muddy puddle. Draw inspiration and spiritual nourishment anywhere you can.

divination, life, Neodruidry

Turmoil and the Ten of Cups.

I’m not going to write on the state of the world right now. In the words of Dave Barry, “I don’t want to write it, and you don’t want to read it.” It’s impossible to create a picture of my internal landscape without looking at the externals, though, so suffice it to say that we’re on the brink of war, an entire continent is on fire, and to many things suck to even begin to list here. Worst of all, many of them are things that were predicted would suck in this exact fashion, so even just existing is a bit like being given the Ludovico Technique using a slow-motion train wreck.

Internally, I’ve been working on adjusting my dose of antidepressants. I’ve finished my Dedicant Path work, so all that remains is to have it reviewed and see what needs to be corrected or elaborated upon. There was another(!) leak, this time in the building’s gas room down the hall, and getting it fixed involved calling emergency maintenance in the middle of the night on New Year’s Eve, waiting, being not-terribly-surprised when no one showed, and then calling the gas company and hoping they’d be able to find a way into the gas room the following afternoon. They did, it’s fixed, and now all that remains is to wait and hope that the new management company will see fit to replace the ancient, inefficient, leaking fixtures and appliances.

With the oven and gas room fixed, I can finally cleanse and bless this place the way it should’ve been a month ago. Constantly smelling gas didn’t seem to be a super great omen for that, however, so I’ve been putting it off.

I’m getting stronger day by day. I’ve been able to do things I couldn’t before, and my physical endurance and mental fortitude are improving greatly. I will always have some degree of disability, but it constricts my world much less than it used to even just a few months ago.

I’ve been working on creating my own tarot spread, cobbled together from the spreads I most commonly use, and the kind of positions I inevitably end up tacking on for clarification. I like it so far! There are a few things I may change, but that’s for Future Me to worry about.

I’ve also been doing a small, meditative ritual every day, and regular trancework. Writing it down has been interesting — the way I usually receive and process information from these jaunts is generally very coherent and linear, even the metaphorical bits, so I never really felt the need to jot things down for further exploration. Journaling hasn’t so much changed how I receive or interpret the messages, but having a record of them makes it much easier to pick out sychronicities from journey to journey and elsewhere in my life. I’ve gotten a lot of water lately, but that’s a subject for another time.

So, amid this mix of good news and bad, I was a little hesitant to draw a card this week. I didn’t last week, for just this reason — there was too much unresolved, demanding too much energy, for me to sit down and put down a coherent string of thoughts about it. I think I’ve said it before, though I’m honestly too tired to check: Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to.

It’s a pitfall of reading for yourself, or even someone whose situation you’re very invested in. When we’re too emotionally bound up in the answers, they’re difficult to interpret truthfully. I don’t find this to be the case for a low-stakes one card reading, but, if something’s weighing heavily on me, I’m more inclined to ask someone else to read for me — or at least compare their readings to my own to find the commonalities. When I feel like this, highly invested in things that seem to be spinning out of control, it’s usually a challenging time for me to read for myself.

Anyway, without making a long story longer, I drew the Ten of Cups.

The Ten of Cups is one of the most positive cards in the deck. It’s come up for me before, when my S.O. and I finished writing a book. We just recently finished posting the first leg of Ane’s circus caravan’s journey on Phoenix & Rook, and I did also just finally finish my Dedicant Path work… So I’m really beginning to wonder if this card’s going to turn up for me every time I finish a big piece of writing.

No complaints here. I could some some peace and fulfillment — as could we all.

divination, life

The Lion, The Fool, and The Devil.

First, I want to apologize for the brief hiatus I took a week or two ago. We received word that we could move into our new apartment on the day before Thanksgiving, and so we had to pack, clean, find movers, figure out why the toilet didn’t work, figure out why we kept smelling gas, yadda, yadda, yadda, nobody exploded and everyone is fine now.

Anyway!

During this time, I also didn’t do any tarot readings for myself. Didn’t really want to, to be honest — we’ve been unpacking, cleaning more things, calling the gas company, calling Poison Control because I accidentally had grapefruit this one time, it’s been a whole big thing. I’ve been too busy to really formulate questions to ask, and, of the questions I’ve had, I don’t really think I wanted answers to them.

(If I had to come up with one, I’d say the first rule of reading tarot is this: Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to.)

So, this week, I decided to draw three cards. I didn’t have a particular plan for the three — I didn’t intend for them to be explicitly Past, Present, Future, or Problem, Obstacle, Outcome, or anything like that. Just a three-card snapshot.

First, I drew Strength.

Strength is, much as its name implies, associated with strength. Inner strength, outer strength. Courage, bravery, confidence, and mastery over one’s emotions. All things considered, this tracks. I’m doing well with therapy, as far one can gauge that kind of thing. I’m being more active, albeit slowly, here and there. Strength. Booya.

Next, I drew The Fool.

The Fool is freedom and innocence, but also a fair amount of naive dumbassery. He’s youthfully spontaneous, but also… Well, foolish. He symbolizes new beginnings, often those that require a leap of faith, of sorts. While most readers interpret The Fool as a positive card, as cards that symbolize beginnings often are, I’ve always viewed him with a little suspicion — Aces are beginnings too, but they don’t have the same careless energy as The Fool. I’ve been taught that The Fool’s backpack contains all of The Magician’s tools, and he could use them to do and be whatever his heart desired, if he only knew they were there. To me, The Fool symbolizes a new beginning with a hidden element, something that needs to be sussed out before taking that leap of faith.

Last, I drew The Devil.

I was initially taught that The Devil signified a manipulative person, but I don’t generally get a big “person” energy when I read tarot. Few of the cards I pull really seem to stand for an actual individual, though it does occasionally happen. In most cases, I see The Devil as something that someone’s given away their power to — it could be an addiction, or even something less severe. People give away their power to things that offer the illusion of safety, even if that “safety” is purely because the manipulative person/situation would make it dangerous to leave.

There are a number of things in my life that could be The Devil. There are things I’ve given power to, or adopted in the name of safety. I don’t use anything stronger than herbal tea and prescribed Zoloft anymore, so it isn’t a substance I can think of. I’ve been careful to root out the people who were unhealthy for me, so it isn’t a person I can name. Manipulation isn’t always obvious, though. Neither are the ways in which we lose our power.

Look at habits. To call me a “homebody” is… euphemistic. I’ve spent a long time managing a chronic illness, so going into environments I can’t control is daunting. Will it be too hot? Will I be dehydrated? Will there be fresh air, or strong smells? Will there be a crowd, or bright lights? A chronic illness isn’t a thing that you really get to choose to give your power away to, but am I managing it in a way that’s really healthy, or just easier?

Or the internet. I’m trying to furnish a living room, a place for my S.O. and I to relax, something that reflects us and the things we enjoy. Do I really want that sofa, or do I just think I want it because it looks just like one from this Pinterest post that some influencer made, even though they actually hate it and would never have considered it if they weren’t being paid ten grand to pretend they don’t? How much of my power have I given away to shitty advertising?

Not every kind of manipulation is overt. Not every addiction is to drugs or alcohol.

Of course, maybe The Devil isn’t here in a negative aspect. Sometimes, he has a positive role to play — like a devil-may-care attitude. He can be entertainment, laughter, sex, and rock’n’roll.

I drew an extra card, just in case. Three major arcana cards is a pretty big deal, the majors carry some strong energy. I got the Two of Wands.

The Two of Wands shows up when two paths diverge in a wood. It can signify a lack of contentment, but cautions that the grass may not be greener on the other side. In the deck I typically use for myself, the Crow Tarot, it’s an urging to leave your comfort zone.

That… That makes sense.

A big part of why we moved is because having stairs to climb made things more difficult (believe me, my dudes, you don’t want to fuck with a tile staircase when you’re having vertigo and your vision’s gone all sparkly). Now that I’m here, I’m enjoying the comfort of more space, and a new, cozy living room… Which would make it very easy for me to do the safe thing, to succumb to the self-deception that tells me that I should make a comfy nest here to nurse myself, instead of using the tools I have gathered to actually help myself. Zoloft and therapy have helped me gain mastery over many (though certainly not all, of course) of my negative emotions, so there’s Strength. This is a new beginning I should embrace with enthusiasm, but not carelessness, so there’s The Fool. I want to stay here, where it’s warm, comfortable, and spacious, and enjoy myself rather than putting these tools to the test and embracing a much less comfortable freedom, and there’s The Devil. I’m not content right now, because illness has hampered my life. I have to use the gains I’ve made to leave my comfort zone, and there’s the Two of Wands.

Heck.