Winter’s Cloak

Today’s exercise began with a poem that I heard a year ago for the first time, at the Winter Assembly of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I loved it on first hearing. It is Winter’s Cloak by Joyce Rupp. Here is a recording of me reading it aloud.

Winter's Cloak by Joyce Rupp. Recorded as part of #honouringthedarkness #poetry

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I love Winter.

I live in Ireland, temperate land where Winter means darkness and short days. It rarely snows here, we are too close to the seas. Winter here means cold and damp, but the contrast with the summer is the lack of light. In the Summer, I feel guilty about spending time indoors reading and resting. In the Summer, a sunny day means I have to go out and enjoy it. Sunny days are a rarity even in Summer.

In Winter, however, I am allowed to be as introverted as I like. I can lie under a blanket reading a book, writing or just being, and it is a day well spent.

I am fortunate to live in a place where hunger and starvation are no longer common. I have hot showers and a warm house and food that is transported around the world to huge supermarkets so that even in the late months of winter/early spring, I always have food. I do not hunger. Most of the world is not so fortunate. I try not to forget how fortunate I am, and I am grateful for my own well being.

I love the darkness, and I welcome the returning light at solstice and throughout the year. And yet, I do not always give myself the darkness of winter’s cloak. I blind myself with the bluescreen light of facebook, of netflix. Perhaps a little more, I would like to wrap myself in the darkness and stillness of winter’s cloak, and rest, just being. Just being.

This post is day six of my personal responses to ‘Honouring the Darkness’, a ten day reflective period leading up to the winter solstice, facilitated by daily emails from Janelle Hardy at http://www.janellehardy.com/hearthome/

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With Nothing To Say

Day 20 of #100Daychallenge  
I am tired and I am resisting. I’m writing this in bed, wishing I could write something interesting, anything. Somewhere in my brain is a funny story, or a clever gem of wisdom extracted from a piece of my life experience. Not tonight. Tonight I am tired and I want this task to go away. So I am tapping away at the keys of my phone…

In Toastmasters we speak in Tabletopics with the intention of speaking for 2 minutes on a given topic, without freezing, without drying up. That two minutes can be an eternity when I have nothing to say. But we keep talking; we use the time. We learn so much in that commitment. 

What is the Tarot?

“Human memory creates traditions just as cellular memory creates the new leaves on trees and the colour of our eyes. Imagine a tradition of almost eighty pictures, fertile with symbolism, call to you from a world just beyond the everyday – reminding you of who you are, and of who you might become. This is the Tarot.” – Philip Carr-Gomm. The DruidCraft Tarot.

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I bought my first deck of Tarot cards from Waterstones in Cork when I was seventeen. I remember spending hours on my bedroom floor listening to Skunk Anansi pouring over the images, their relationships, the stories of each card and the story of the deck as a whole.

In a deck of ordinary playing cards, there are 4 suits, 10 numbered cards per suit and 3 face cards, plus 2 jokers.  In Tarot, there are 4 suits, 10 numbered cards per suit but 4 face cards (court cards). We call this part of the deck the ‘minor arcana’ or the small mysteries. In addition, there is a second part we call the ‘major arcana’.  The major arcana is a sequence of 22 cards starting from 0 to 21.  Many of you will be familiar with the names of some of the cards from the Major Arcana, especially the darker cards so often used when fortune tellers are shown on tv dramas. 

The four suits in Tarot are traditionally and usually titled Cups, Swords, Pentacles and Wands. There are variations.  The face cards are known as the King, Queen, Knight and Page/Princess (depending on the tradition).


ImageThe tarot decks we use today come primarily from the occult societies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in particular the Order of the Golden Dawn which had several well known Anglo-Irish members such as WB Yeats and AE.  The order encouraged its members to do research and create their own decks. The most famous of these is the Rider-Waite Tarot.  The imagery and meanings of the cards come from Astrology, Numerology, Psychology and Qabalah. The tarot is a vast referencing system. Everyone creator of a deck as used the basic structure to illustrate their own understanding of the universe. In a sense it is little more than an alphabet and the systems of the west have written their own mythology with it.

The tarot can be used for a variety of purposes:

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  • It is a system to hold and transmit wisdom.
  • It is a tool for meditation and reflection.
  • It is a tool for divination.
  • It is a source of inspiration.

There are thousands and thousands of tarot decks in existence. The creators of each deck have used the basic structure and meaning and illustrated it with their own mythology.  This is a wonderful thing and the wealth of art is astounding.  The stories told in the tarot are universal (connection, wealth, loss, grief, training) and it is possible to illustrate it with any world view.  The tarot of the Golden Dawn and other mystery traditions was used to encode wisdom. And a student of that tradition would be able to meditate on a card or sequence of cards and understand every symbol used on it.   The creation of a deck is a very intentional thing and in a good deck everything means something.

If you go to any bookstore you can find a calendar with a thought for each day. Many people use tarot in the same way by drawing a card each day and thinking about the wisdom or the teaching it gives. Most decks will come with a book describing the lesson for each card or the suggestions.

The most commonly known use of Tarot is for divination.  I asked on Facebook this week how people would describe Tarot to those who don’t use it.  One friend came back with a wonderful answer. Using tarot for divination is like looking in a mirror.

To use the cards for divination you first have to be aware of an area of your life that isn’t working as well as you’d like. The tarot simply allows you a chance to think deeply about what’s happening. In essence, it doesn’t matter what cards come back to you.  There will always be a something in it that gives you a starting point to think and to invite greater wisdom into your life.  If you’re a religious or spiritual person, a reading is a consultation with the divine and an act of prayer.

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Finally, and I think most importantly for creative people, tarot is a source of inspiration.  If you are ever stuck for a topic or an idea, draw a card and think about what it relates to. There will be several questions in each. What are do you need to let go of. Who is a source of teaching for you.
The tarot holds many deep truths, but they can simply provide the backdrop of your work with it.  You can go as deep or as wonderfully shallowly with it as you wish.  It may be an encyclopedia of the human condition but just because you reference a book on garden plants, you don’t need to become a botanist.

Use it to suit your needs.

Do you use tarot? If so, how?

The photographs of the cards are from my own decks. They are the Druidcraft tarot and the Thoth deck.

Less News, More You

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I have been using Twitter a bit lately and it’s got me thinking.

On Twitter you choose who you follow. You choose what voices to hear and what voices to respond to. I think there’s a great wisdom in that.

In general, I don’t read newspapers or watch news programes on television. I glance at headlines and if someone shares an interesting article online I’ll read that but usually a day or so later and on my kindle.

I have issues with news.

For one thing, there’s too much of it. There is far too much information in one daily paper for me to process and contextualise. The entire world’s news is now available to us and dumped on us. Our ancestors would have shared news from person to person. Newspapers until very recently were only a few pages long and contained stories about things that happened in the last few days and weeks. Today, the news is minutes and hours old and with less and less context.

For another, everything about news demands an opinion and a judgement.  But beyond that, news now seems to demand a sense of horror or outrage. That’s terrible. Listen to the scandal. Be upset. Be angry. The world is a terrible place. This happens to the point of what I call ‘disaster-porn’. You only have to be exposed to a 24 hour news channel to discover how much of a producer’s wet dream a school shooting or a building collapse is. And we get to listen to hours of voices sharing their obligatory condemnation and sadness.

Enough.

I felt quite vindicated last year when I read Tim Ferris’ ‘The 4Hour Work Week’. He suggests giving up news. If something of great importance happens, you’ll be told about it. It is very difficult to truly escape “news”.

I believe we should have enough information to inform us about the general state of the world and to empower us. Where is our help needed? But beyond that, it becomes a drain on our mental resources, a source of stress, and a waste of time.

I want you to skip the newspaper and the tv news, if not every day, at least once in a while.

Like on Twitter, I want you to choose who you listen to.  There’s another voice that gets lost in the noise. Your inner voice is known by many names: your (higher) Self, God, the source, creativity, your Christ/Buddha-nature, and many more. Whatever you call or understand the knowing that comes to you in stillness, that’s the voice I mean.

There are many ways to experience that voice and all it takes is to turn down the competing voices. My advice is to find a few ways to create the space you need and to listen to your own inner voice. We are always talking to ourselves but how often do we actually listen? Listen to your body speaking. Are you tired or dehydrated but too busy to notice? Pick up a pen and start a journal. Take long walks. Daydream. 

Just like on Twitter, listen to be informed and inspired.  If a voice speaks to much or listening doesn’t serve you, hit unfollow.  Listen to your voice, then speak it.  Inspiration – Expiration. Breathe in. Breathe out. We breathe in and listen. We breathe out and speak what we hear. It’s all about the balance. When you listen, you will find you have things to say. It might not be in words, but You have something to say.

Take in the news about the world that you need, but no more. Take a long walk in silence. Daydream and dance. Listen to your own truth and speak it. Write a blog post. Write a letter. Give a talk at Toastmasters.

We are waiting to hear your voice and to hear your truth. Listen and speak it.

Postcards from the Bus

I am currently in transit and I love it.

I had a moment of realisation yesterday. When I was young Fraggle Rock was one of my favourite programmes. Fraggle Rock may have had a life long impact on me by implanting a role model for travel deep in my subconscious. This fraggle:

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Uncle Travelling Matt sending his postcards and observations of the world.

I am always on tour. I look at my home town and village with a travelling eye.

Also, this leg of The Journey I am doing on my own and mostly by bus. I love looking at the world from the window of a bus.

Thank you Uncle Travelling Matt for the inspiration and the postcards.