Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Too often we see this narrative played out in both politics and religion. The details change, but the substance remains the same. Government and the church have a tendency to be constricted by old ideas and orthodoxy long after they are valid or useful. New situations and challenges are met with fear, and an obsession with clinging to the past. A fresh solution presents itself and comes into conflict with the old ways. Inevitably there is a fight, with both sides clinging to their positions with single-minded obtuseness. There is always a compromise, but it lacks the vigor and freshness of new approaches.
I can see in the 8 of swords the Occupy movement, struggling to find a voice but oppressed by mainstream propaganda. We can see corporate America in the 4 of pentacles, consumed by greed and heedless of demands to work towards an improved and perhaps more idealistic society (ace of wands). Overbearing force, violent perhaps, but maybe more subtle, ultimately is brought to bear (knight of swords). Changes are made (ace of swords), but they cosmetic, and preserve the old way of doing business.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
It's obvious to us that not all stories end happily, but it's equally important to remember that in life, unlike in Hollywood films, most of our narratives don't have endings at all. At best there are resolutions to the conflicts and difficult situations that are inevitably a part of our experience. Even those resolutions are frequently unresolved way stations in our journey toward the future (and in the time/space continuum of quantum physics, past, present, and future may all exist simultaneously, which is one possible explanation of the Tarot's efficacy).
I heard Jason's story (not his real name) on a radio broadcast a few days ago, and when I saw this spread yesterday evening I knew instantly who it was talking about. Jason is a young man who was deeply conflicted in the past, uncertain about his values and the direction his life was taking (2 of Swords). Raised in a nurturing and comfortable Jewish family (10 of Pentacles), he nevertheless struggled with his inner demons, unable to resolve his crisis (4 of Pentacles). After experiencing a profoundly spiritual revelation he became a born again Christian, which was like being hit by a club (Ace of Wands). He ran off to join a small commune in Alaska and turned his back on his family to become a single-minded and passionate warrior for Jesus (Knight of Clubs). I don't mean to imply any judgment of Jason's new-found religious beliefs, but was struck by his knight-like conviction that his was the only true path.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Ariadne, a stylist in commercials had not worked in almost two years and was facing the loss of her small New England-style cottage because she could no longer pay the mortgage. It was the lowest she had ever been in her life. She was estranged from her father, a successful corporate attorney, and was surprised when her father offered to co-sign so she could refinance her house. In addition he gave her a substantial amount of money to tide her over for a year and hopefully, get started on a new life path. Ariadne decided she would give up her career in advertising and pursue her original dream of being an artist. In reality she was living with her dreams and fantasies, and refusing to face what would happen if she couldn't make a living from her art. As crunch time approached she came up with an idea for a small tote bag that could be used by artists, one she hand-crafts from recycled materials. She began marketing it through a web site. The idea took off, and while it hasn't yet made her rich Ariadne is earning a comfortable and steady living.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Knights are by their very nature brash, headstrong, and cocky. They rush into battle with a single-mindedness that can just as easily be admirable as worrisome. As a coach I see it again and again, young athletes of talent and promise. You always wonder where their assets will take them. (Knight of Cups).
Early in their careers they compete as ferociously as anyone else (5 wands), and achieve great success (6 wands). In many cases, such as this one, we learn that sports may not be the most important thing in their lives, and there are other things also taking up their attention (9 of Cups), academic pursuits, hobbies, an interest in the world around them, etc. The resolution is left to fate to decide how this might be resolved (Wheel of Fortune).
This narrative, which I saw in the cards this morning, hit far too close to home, not surprising to anyone who has experience with Tarot. I'm attending the memorial service today for a young Palisades High lacrosse player I helped coached, and who assisted me coaching youth lacrosse last winter before graduating from high school in June. He achieved great recognition as a team captain and high scorer, while at the same time was an outstanding student, fluent in French, talented as a photographer, and a skilled writer. This story could be his. Tragically, fate provided the conclusion before he had a chance to decide the path he would follow, as his life was cut short in an automobile accident two weeks ago.
My heart and prayers go out to his parents, sister, and teammates.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
It's altogether fitting that the narrative for Thanksgiving is a happy one, with three powerful court cards involved signifying heart, intelligence, and creative impulse. We can count our blessings. The conflicts, such as they are, are mild and rather normal.
The Queen of Cups and King of Swords suggests that emotions are in conflict with intellect, but it is a day of celebration (3 of Cups), though the way we observe holidays nowadays it should be spelled sellebration. The differences may well be over something to do with an extended family, or involves friends who are getting together for the day. Wands prevail, with the 9 of Wands suggesting that the outcome is peaceable. In the end the Queen of Wands, signifying a strong maternal authority, rules the roost.
Be thankful above all for loved ones today, and know that whatever differences exist, shared bonds are more important.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Yesterday's spread left me perplexed; one could have concluded that the Devil card in the outcome position signified the narrative ended in some dire, even tragic way. But in Tarot even cards like Death and The Tower, which tell of calamitous events, are interruptions in life that lead to another start, hopefully with lessons learned.
The 6 of Cups in the preparation position gives us hope, telling us the subject is nostalgic for the life left behind, missing family and friends and regretful for choosing to abandon all and join a religious cult. But the leader of the sect (King of Wands) is not going to give him up. without a fight He is a powerful force, and despite all that is negative about him he is extremely charismatic, a strong and compelling leader. The subject must find in himself the courage to act. There are a lot of cards that might have indicated submission and defeat, but the Knight of Wands tells us the subject is not easily subjugated, and puts up a struggle to free himself from this man. The Knight of Swords in the turn position tells me the subject is successful. But he doesn't simply sneak off in the night. He stands up to the leader. I can see an actual physical fight.
The Ace of Wands tells of a fresh start. The subject has done much more than break free. His experience allows him to see that in his old life he was defeating himself, failing to recognize his own assets as he wallowed in dissatisfaction and self-indulgence. He can look to the future with a new confidence and courage. In this case an individual allowed unhappiness to be the catalyst that caused even greater unhappiness. On the long fall down he had to hit bottom before realizing he could not rely on others to show him the way back to the top.
There's an obvious moral in this, one we know in our hearts but often fail to recognize in our heads. What fascinates me is how clearly the cards put it out there.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
How often in life, at a moment when we feel dissatisfied with how things are going, vulnerable, and beset by doubt, do we find ourselves suddenly faced with an alluring but perilous option? In this cautionary tale a young person (could be a man or woman) appears to make a disastrous choice. It's a narrative that plays out over and over, all the time, in many different ways. It could be a bad love affair, the wrong friend or group of friends, a business venture, a misguided journey. When in your life have you succumbed to an idea, person, or situation that has been so all-consuming it threatened to obliterate your personality?
A scenario I see in this spread involves a bored and restless individual (4 of Cups) becoming involved in a dangerous religious cult (The High Priestess). The person abandons their old life, turns their back on friends and family, and gives away their money and possessions (10 of Pentacles). The change is impulsive, sudden, leaving no time to consider the possible ramifications (8 of Wands). The person's loyalty to the cult becomes obsessive, total, almost pathological (The Devil).
This could be the end of the narrative, as it was for the Jonestown victims. Most of us find our way back to the light eventually when we become obsessively involved in something (though hopefully not as dire a circumstance as this). Curious, I did another spread, which will be revealed in the next post.
- ▼ November (14)
- John M Crowther
- Artist, writer, filmmaker, actor. Wrote "The Evil That Men Do" starring Charles Bronson. "Missing in Action" starring Chuck Norris. Performed one-man play "Einstein" off-Broadway and in Europe. Tours US with "Meet Mr. Wright," his one-man play about Frank Lloyd Wright. Art exhibitions in Italy and U.S. His work as a cartoonist has been seen in MAD magazine. Illustrated the children's books "How the Waif Bunny Saved the Boy" and "The Man In the Red Bandana" about his nephew Welles Crowther, a hero of 9/11, written by his niece, Honor Crowther Fagin, Welles's sister. Author of novel "Firebase," published in UK by Constable and US by St. Martins Press. For many years an avid student and reader of Tarot. Performs weddings as a Los Angeles County Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriage.