Last night marked the end, in the Serbian calendar, of the “Unclean Days”–a period of time characterized by folk observances that reveal a commingled Pagan and Eastern Orthodox Christian sensibility. One of the major themes emphasized during this liminal 12-day period between the waning influence of the old year and the embryonic energies yet to crystallize in the new is the auspiciousness of performing divination.
Now, while my mother tells me that I had a great uncle in Serbia who performed divination by gazing into an old brazen bowl into which he read the shapes of a beeswax candle’s droplets in spring water, and my mother’s own mother told fortunes with a regular deck of playing cards as well as scrying in Turkish coffee grounds, I like to stick with the Tarot. But not just any Tarot deck–though, admittedly, like many Pagans, I have several at my disposal–my preferred one is the very first one to come across my petite priestess hands: a Marseilles Tarot deck given to me by my awesome Uncle Milan, my mother’s brother. During his 50 years of life (cut short by lymphoma) on this planet, he was an astute esotericist, Jungian psychologist, gifted viola player, and good-humored, pipe tobacco-smoking outdoors enthusiast. The Marseilles deck was his, given to me before my fifteenth birthday with a very knowing wink from his deep-set, coal-black eyes.
One of my favorite New Year’s Eve traditions entails some needed alone time (which can be challenging if I’m at a party and I need to sequester myself) with my Tarot deck, doing a beloved, time-honored spread I call the Year-Wheel, even though it’s not an entirely fitting name as the “spokes” of the Wheel, beginning at the 9:00 position and going counter-clockwise, also represent the 12 Houses of the Zodiac. I didn’t get the chance to follow my Tarot tradition this past New Year’s Eve, however, as my boyfriend and I were traveling in San Francisco (well, technically, that night we crossed the East Bay over to Oakland to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in 12 years, and much geeky trivia ensued that night with rounds of Fibbage played with our smartphones connected to his TV) and I plum forgot to withdraw my cards, which I did have in my purse with me that night.
So, fast forward through Serbian Christmas Eve (January 6) and the kick-off of the Unclean Days. To my credit, I followed all the prescribed taboos meant to curtail the likelihood of my attracting evil spirits’ attention. And lo and behold, last night rolls around and I realize that I haven’t yet done my annual Year-Wheel Tarot spread. The window of opportunity, per my cultural tradition, for conducting divination in such an optimal time would soon close, so I knew I had to act fast. As my boyfriend was in the midst of taking a ritual bath after an Ifá initiation he’d had earlier in the day (I’m so proud of him!), I knew I would have my uninterrupted Tarot time in the living room, facing east and laying the cards out on our circular glasstop coffee table.
I shuffled and cut the deck three times, which entailed separating the cards into three stacks with my non-dominant (left) hand and rearranging them again into one stack. One long, slow shuffle ensued until the moment when I felt that the cards felt “right”–then I fanned them out on the seat cushion of the chair to my left. Before selecting the card that would represent my Significator, whose energies would represent the theme of 2015 for me, I sung my usual chant to Hekate Khthonia, one of the three Goddesses I swore lifelong service to when I became ordained as a Priestess in the Fellowship of Isis:
Hidden Hekate, to me show what it is that I must know!
Though I was immensely relaxed, I inhaled and exhaled deeply before having my right (dominant) hand float over the fanned-out, face-down cards, pausing above the card I felt to be my Significator. I turned it over and placed it in the center of the coffee table, smiling as I did so: I drew the Emperor! A hell of an improvement over last year’s 5 of Disks!
I shifted my body slightly to the left to select from the chair’s seat cushion the remaining 12 cards, one by one. I placed them face down, starting in the 9:00 position/House 1 position, and working my way counter-clockwise until the last card, representing the month of December for this year as well as my 12th House theme for the year, was placed in the 10:00 position, completing the Wheel/Zodiac spread.
With a deep breath, I flipped over this month’s card, which also represents my First House. Meeting my gaze was the eerie sight of those twin towers, the baying hounds (of Hekate!), and that creepy-ass lobster crawling out of those primal waters: I drew the Moon. I winced. Every day before heading to work, my boyfriend and I have a tradition of selecting one of his Thoth Tarot cards to set our tone for the day, and on no less than three days of last week’s work week, I drew the Moon card. Granted, the decks are wildly different in style and slightly so in interpretation, but I kept asking myself the same uneasy question each time the card came up: Who is trying to keep me a prisoner of illusion? I’m not being told the full story about something at work; someone isn’t divulging key information, deliberately keeping me in the dark. So, yeah, I had a negative reaction upon seeing the Marseilles version of this card representing January/House 1. I look at it as a caution against being led astray by illusions, but perhaps the key to clarity lies in being more receptive to my intuition/dream wisdom.
The card I drew for February/the 2nd House of Finances was the King of Swords. A good time to be authoritative with managing my investments. My intuition also signaled this card also represents my volatile boss, and to be wary of aggressive/defensive communication (Swords representing the element of Air) with him.
March’s card/the card representing my 3rd House of Communications is the unpleasant 5 of Wands, signaling adversity, competition, strife. A major warning about my already precarious workplace situation.
But work issues will take a turn for the better in April, whose card, also representing my 4th House of Home, is the 8 of Disks. A card of excellent “apprenticeship” energy signaling the acquisition of new clients, skills, or even employment as I prove my worth through my work. Representing the 4th House, I see this card as having to do with working towards my goal of saving money for remodeling projects.
May’s card was the only other Disks/Earth Suit in the spread: the Knight of Coins. Reliable Capricorn energies herald steady income, tilling the earth for a good harvest. Applied to the 5th House of Creativity, I interpret this card as applying discipline to my creativity–i.e., have a regular schedule for creative writing projects. A couple of jobs ago, I used to utilize my entire lunch hour, rain or shine, at a local park bench, sitting and writing poetry from noon-1 p.m. It was one of the most creatively fertile periods of my life thus far, and the disciplined structure served me well. I need to resuscitate that.
The 6th House, also my forecast for the month of June, is represented by the 7 of Wands. It’s a card of holding up under siege, so to speak, surmounting obstacles to find success. As the 6th House can represent health as well as service, and considering that I was not in the best of health from October – Thanksgiving weekend of last year (I had a bleeding duodenal ulcer, had to have a back-to-back colonoscopy and endoscopy), I need to make self-care a priority before I can look at serving others.
July’s card, representing the 7th House of Marriage/Partnerships, finds joie-de-vivre expressed in the Fool card. As the Fool can sometimes represent an unlooked-for influence suddenly coming into play, on one level I’m reminded to make sure nothing untoward penetrates my armor of birth control! (Dan and I also had pregnancy scares last year, which, mercifully, turned out to be false alarms each time.) After all, what IS the Fool carrying in his sack–a zygote-to-be, perhaps? 😛 On another level, concerning my relationship with Dan, the Fool is a happy reminder that playful innocence and faith work wonders in a committed long-term partnership. Perhaps it indicates we might even take another trip together–our San Francisco odyssey the week of New Year’s was our first trip by air travel together, for example.
A stalemate of some kind is heralded by August’s card of the Two of Swords, which also correlates with an 8th House placement. What will be pulling me in two different directions? Am I going to be emotionally blocking myself off to something? That the 8th House also has to do with Legacies in terms of Other Peoples’ Money (think inheritances) has me somewhat apprehensive. After all, my parents are both in their 70s and talk of wills and what to do with their house once it’s mine keep me awake with worry many a sleepless night. Well, no sense worrying until we’re in late summer.
My birth month is September and I’m very giddy to see that the only Cups card I drew for the entire spread is for this month, and it represents, zodiacally, the exuberant 9th House of Expanding Horizons. I drew the Three of Cups! Whether my horizons are expanded internally by learning something new or externally through travel, it’s going to be a good month and we are well and worthily pleased!
Better still, my 10th House of Career/Public Influence for the month of October continues the fruitful, pleasurable vibes with the Empress! It’s time to show the world/Chicago’s advertising community I am Queen of my domain, folks! Interestingly, given her placement directly above my Significator, you can see at a glance that she forms an axis with the Emperor. I really find this energy alignment between the two of them most auspicious.
The month of November portends a delay of some kind that will affect my 11th House themes of Friends and Group Affiliations. The card I drew was the 9 of Wands, which can portend a recovery from illness, putting plans on the back burner or even anticipating trouble but being ready for it. The Co-Masonic body I belong to is currently undergoing tremendous upheaval, so I wonder if this group affiliation is the one with rockiness in store for me. I highly doubt the professional organizations I belong to would be so drama-plagued–even though copywriters are a narcissistic bunch (save for modest Virgo me…ha!). This card certainly can’t be alluding to my Chicago chapter of the Fellowship of Isis! Everyone there is older than Dan and me and we look up to them as second sets of parents/treasured mentors. Time will tell where the fallout will lie.
Lastly, and unfortunately, the Year-Wheel ends with the 8 of Swords, quite the (mental) crisis card. This placement represents my 12th House of Occult Mystery and Karma. How to interpret this negative card here? Don’t fall prey to a victim mentality in my Wyrd workings, I guess. If a crisis should ensue, it will probably be a case of me making things out to be worse than they are…which kind of loops back to the warning about illusion with the Moon Card, card no. 1, which kicks off this Year-Wheel. Interesting how things loop back and reinforce each other thematically, eh?
Overall, I am pleased with this spread. Last year’s had a preponderance of reversed cards and I am beyond relieved all of my cards were upright this time around. I definitely welcome the message of claiming my personal power and exercising authority that the Significator of the Emperor represents. It seems to me that the spread seems very work-/entrepreneurial-oriented. Elementally, there is only one Water card. There are three from the Suit of Swords and three from the Suit of Wands. Two Earth/Disks cards. There are four Major Arcana cards, including my Significator, and again, it’s interesting how they’re aligned vertically and horizontally on respective axis lines, as The Moon in the 1st House/9:00 position lies opposite The Fool in the 7th House/3:00 position. Folly in The Moon’s message? Illusion and imagination in the Fool’s bag of tricks (or past karma) he carries with him on his grand adventure? Why not? (Tarot enthusiasts, I welcome your thoughts on this spread!)
Tarot cards are wonderful reminders that our individual consciousnesses are always at one with All That Is. As the Thelemic axiom puts it, “There is no part of me that is not of the Gods.” Past, present, future. The ongoing NOW and its attendant ongoing WOWS. Just as the aces, pips and court cards of the Minor Arcana reflect the people and situations of our “mundane” experiences and the Major Arcana cards the imprint of Deity/universal archetypes that pull us up into a “higher” narrative unfolding, there is no facet of Selfhood not explored by the Tarot. And they can take a lifetime of exploring.
And for that, I have my Uncle Milan to thank. May perpetual light shine upon you, Uncle! So Mote It Be!