Sunday, 18 February 2018

The sign of the Fish

At 17. 17 today, the 18th of February, the Sun moves (in the Tropical System of astrology) into the zodiac sign of Pisces.  The twelfth sign of the zodiac spans 330°-360° of celestial longitude, although strictly speaking this region of the zodiac is now covered mostly by the constellation of Aquarius, due to the precession from the point when both the constellation and sign of Pisces coincided*. 

In the northern hemisphere, at mid-latitudes, this is the time of year when the ice and snow starts to melt.  Water begins to flow as it’s released from its frozen, crystalline (Aquarian!) state. Boundaries melt. It’s a time of release, of letting go, of merging. A time to learn to accept what can’t be changed or controlled, as well as a time to surrender to change that is beyond our control.  

' Pisces' ©Alison Coals
Unsurprisingly, then, we find that the sign of Pisces is one of the three Water signs. We’ve already met Cancer, the cardinal Water sign, and Scorpio, the fixed Water sign. Pisces – the mutable Water sign - completes the triplicity. In many ways, I think this is the easiest of the three triplicities to understand – after all, water in its natural state is free-flowing, and can be found in many forms (mutable meaning the ability to transform).

image from Atlas Coelestis
The astrological glyph for Pisces is said to symbolize two fish held together by a string. In the constellation, the fish are usually ‘seen’ as swimming away from each other.  Alpha Piscium, the star at the point corresponding to the knot in the cord joining the two fish, is also known as Alrescha, from the Arabic al-Risa – the “well-rope” or “the cord”. The glyph’s symbolism can be extended to represent our dual nature - one fish could be seen as swimming upwards towards the heavens as if looking for spiritual guidance, while the other continues along the path of the Sun (the elliptic), concentrating on more earthly or material pursuits.

In Greek mythology, Pisces has many associations with Aphrodite (Venus in the Roman pantheon), who - as a reward to the fish who rescued her - placed the fish into the night sky. In astrological terms, Venus (the planet) is said to be exalted in Pisces, expressing all-encompassing love and compassion.

Jupiter
The traditional ruler of Pisces is the planet Jupiter.  Jupiter, as you may remember, is a huge planet comprised mainly of hot gas. Known as the ‘Greater Benefic’ (Venus being the ‘Lesser Benefic’), Jupiter is associated with growth, expansiveness, benevolence and laughter (Jove, the Roman version of Jupiter giving rise to the word ‘jovial’).  It’s also linked to higher learning, to philosophy, law, and religion (in the broadest sense of the word) – to expanding our horizons, lifting us to new heights (remember that hot-air balloon?!). With Pisces, it’s expressed by living through our ideals, by being compassionate and sensitive, and by developing faith in the universe as well as the self.  William Blake wrote, in his The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, that “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" – a wonderful description of Jupiter in Pisces!

Neptune
Pisces also has a modern ruler, Neptune.  This planet was ‘discovered’ (or identified!) in 1846, and was named after the Roman god of the sea.  Neptune is associated astrologically with compassion and empathy, and is said to show us the areas in our lives where we want to merge, rather than stand out. It’s linked to dreams and visions, and our highest ideals. Imaginative, but not a lover of boundaries – it wants to transcend limits.

So, where does Pisces fit into the tarot?  Stay tuned for an exploration of the final zodiac sign in the cards...


*In Sidereal astrology, the sun currently transits Pisces from approximately 15th March to 14th April.


Thursday, 15 February 2018

Aquarius New Moon - and a lunar eclipse!

Tonight sees a partial lunar eclipse (exact at 20:51). It’s not visible from the UK, but if you find yourself in the Antarctic or South America, or in the southern Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, you’ll be able to see it!

The Sun and Moon join each other in the final degrees of Aquarius (New Moon at 27°07, at 21:05), accompanied by Mercury.  Aquarius, as we’ve seen over the last month’s posts, is the innovator, the seeker of new ways forwards. The humanitarian, the inventor, the designer. Mercury in Aquarius can represent the scientist, the researcher, the investigative reporter, all of which might be coming to the fore now.  

You might want to go back and read about the Moon and Mercury in Aquarius in the tarot...

Jupiter, currently in the fixed Water sign of Scorpio, forms a square to this eclipse alignment. Squares represent conflict, or tension. In this case, we may find ourselves at odds with some of our thoughts and beliefs.  We may be challenged to question those beliefs - are they still valid? Is that what we really think – and why?  Are there any feelings of doubt or uncertainty that we need to consider?  Jupiter in Scorpio suggests that we may need to go deep within ourselves to explore any hidden or repressed feelings involved.


Any new intentions that we set around this time will be worth revisiting at the Aquarius Full Moon, which falls on the 27th July this year.  How much progress will we have made by then?

Monday, 12 February 2018

Aquarius in the court cards

Last but not least, by any means – Aquarius in the court cards. But which one – or ones?  Different traditions have different astrological correspondences when it comes to the Court Cards.  For instance, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn chose to assign cardinal attributes (initiating things) to the Queens, fixed (maintaining order) to the Kings, and mutable (being able to adapt and transform) to the Knights.  Each court card is also linked to the elements, with Pages with Earth, Knights being associated with Fire, Queens with Water, and Kings with Air. 

Prince of Swords (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
Following this system, we end up with Fixed Air sign Aquarius being associated with the King of Swords (Air of Air).  The Thoth deck follows this convention, of course, being rooted in the Golden Dawn tradition - although Crowley chose to use Princes rather than Kings, just to add to the confusion. In the image from the Thoth, we see the Prince of Swords slaying whatever stands in his way. Fast but also careful, he’s discriminating in what he chooses to remove in order to create something new and innovative. 



Queen of Swords (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
If you work with a system that assigns the Fixed mode to the Queens, you’re looking at the Queen of Swords.  An example of this is the Sharman-Burke/Caselli tarot (Beginners Guide to the Tarot). Here we see the Queen on her throne, which is decorated with butterflies (symbolizing the element of Air) and an eagle’s head (the form that Zeus took in order to transport Ganymede to Mount Olympus to become the cup-bearer of the gods, taking his place in the sky as Aquarius).  The single bird in the clear sky, above the storm clouds on the horizon, represents clarity; this queen can see past obstacles and keep her mind on the objective.  The upright sword represents justice and equality – high ideals – and all strong Aquarian qualities.  Detachment, another Aquarian quality, allows the Queen of Swords to remain dignified even though she’s known loss and pain – she won’t wear her heart on her sleeve, but bears sorrow with fortitude and courage. 


Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.


Thursday, 8 February 2018

Aquarius in the Minor Arcana: The Seven of Swords

The Seven of Swords, in the astrological correspondence system I follow, is linked to the Moon in Aquarius - as well as to the final ten days of Aquarius (10th-19th February this year).   We’re still looking at Fixed Air, but now we add some water through Cancer’s rulership of the Moon.  

So if this is the sign of the unconventional and the unorthodox, the reformer and revolutionary, how is it affected by the Moon?  Well, the Moon is about emotional needs and about the way we react to things automatically, instinctively.  So an Aquarian Moon could react unpredictably, perhaps, and with a sense of detachment.  Being free to express ideas, especially ones that don’t conform to the ‘norm’, and to be innovative might give this Moon a sense of security.

Seven of Swords (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
But how does this fit with the Seven of Swords? This card is often linked to being stealthy – one of my tarot friends, Alison Cross, calls it the ‘Sneaky Pete’ card.  Some say it’s about making a sly escape, but I like Juliet Sharman-Burke’s description – “tact rather than aggression”.  There’s something about thinking things through and making plans for the future (Aquarius) but taking great care with those plans. Remember the Moon is ruled by Cancer, so there’s likely to be an element of protectiveness involved – possibly to the point of being underhanded.  Aquarius brings the detachment, the clarity of vision, so that any protectiveness or nurturing quality to the action is not going be based on emotional needs.  We often warn against being too free and open about what we intend to do when we see this card – that’s the Moon’s caution acting on an Aquarian desire to spread knowledge within the community.

Seven of Swords (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
The Shadowscapes Tarot shows us that stealthiness by a figure hiding behind a mask, having just managed to steal a sword from the swan that guards them. He thinks he hasn’t been seen but in fact the swan has one eye open and knows exactly what’s going on.  Here we can see the Moon in the idea of deception (the Moon card in the tarot is about illusion and deception, among other things).  A life lived in stealth and in deception suggests a lack of faith in the world, and that this is the only way to get what you need.  Which brings us to negative thoughts...


Seven of Swords (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
In the Thoth Tarot, the word that Crowley chose for the card is ‘futility’ – a daunting card to be faced with, I often feel.  As with many of the cards in this deck, I feel it’s coming from the other direction – but yet still brings us to the same point (oh, sorry – no pun intended!).  The six smaller swords each bear a glyph on their hilts, representing six of the planets.  Each of those smaller swords is meant to represent thoughts which stand in our way – negative thoughts. For instance, Mars could symbolize feeling too tired, or that there’s not enough time – while Neptune could reflect a sense of not really knowing what you want, that it’s all an illusion. Meanwhile, the Sun and Moon – the conscious and unconscious – are at opposite ends of the seventh and largest sword; the Sun glyph on its hilt, pointing towards the Moon at the top of the card. The message? Not to let a sense of it all being ‘futile’ stand in your way – by doing so, you’re actually trying to escape taking responsibility for your actions – hence the stealthy appearance of the guy in the more traditional images!


Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.




Sunday, 4 February 2018

Aquarius in the Minor Arcana: The Six of Swords

Today we move on to the Six of Swords, which - in the system I use - is linked to Mercury in Aquarius, as well as to the middle ten days of Aquarius (30th/31st January to 9th February this year).

Just to recap: Aquarius is the fixed Air sign, so we’re looking at maintaining lines of communications, and establishing ideas and concepts – but not just any old idea. This is the sign of the unconventional and the unorthodox, the reformer and revolutionary.  When we add Mercury, the communicator, the trader, to this sign we have an energy that wants to express and share its ideas, its ideology, its humanitarian aims, perhaps. Aquarius can be detached and impersonal, so the method of communicating or sharing is likely to reflect that – this won’t be about the emotions!  There could be lots of discussion, and perhaps even the establishing of groups based around a common cause that will involve the need to make changes. Innovative or experimental thinking – leading to the ‘science’ keyword used by Crowley in his Thoth deck – is also an aspect of Mercury in Aquarius.

Six of Arrows (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
But how is Mercury in Aquarius reflected in the Six of Swords?  Traditionally, we tend to see the Six of Swords as being about transition – leaving behind difficult situations and moving towards a calmer place.  Often the image is one of people being carried by boat out of a stormy atmosphere into one that looks more peaceful.  The key, I think, is that we find a way out of our difficulties by coming up with new ways of thinking – that the solution comes through a different idea, perhaps even a revolutionary or unorthodox one, or one that requires some experimenting.
Six of Swords (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot


In the Shadowscapes deck, we have quite a different image but it still conveys the idea of a “passage from difficulty”, to quote the accompanying book (details below). Although the creator of the deck doesn’t draw on astrological associations, I can see Mercury’s ability to analyze and see clearly helping to bring perspective to what lies ahead (Aquarius), easing the transition.



Six of Swords (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
In the Thoth, the swords meeting at a central point symbolizes the meeting of a variety of ideas that results in a new vision, while the rose at the centre represents the blossoming of a new reality – the transition to a new perspective, a calmer place.  ‘Science’ here refers to the way in which new knowledge helps us to move away from outdated ways of thinking – and the need to communicate and share such knowledge so that others can adapt as well.


If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might be interested in my e-book, Astrology in Tarot, now available from Amazon.



Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Tarot Blog Hop – Imbolc 2018: Brigid’s Blue Moon


Welcome to Alison’s Alembic!   You may have arrived here as a stop on the Tarot Blog Hop from either Jay's Metaphysical Angels or Willow Path Tarot's blog. Or you may have found this through TABI’s Facebook page, or though one of the many wonderful tarot bloggers in the ether... It doesn’t matter – what does matter is that you’re here!

Imbolc (pronounced i-molk or i-molg), also called Brigid’s Day or Candlemas, is a cross-quarter festival , marking the end of winter and beginning of spring (in the northern hemisphere). The name ‘Imbolc’ comes from the old Irish “i mbolg”, meaning “in the belly”, referring to the time of year when sheep and goats are pregnant, carrying their young.   Other etymology includes “oimelc”, meaning “ewe’s milk”, a reference to the onset of lactation in ewes about to give birth.

Birth, beginnings… a time of hope, a time to look towards the future, and what might be.

As the Celtic year was based on both lunar and solar cycles, the festival would probably have been celebrated on the full moon nearest the midpoint between the Winter Solstice (Yule) and the Vernal Equinox (Ostara) … in the northern hemisphere, at least!

Our wrangler for this particular round of the Tarot Blog Hop, Aisling, points out that this year, this festival is in fact a ‘trifecta’, a combination of three significant events on a single day. Imbolc itself, the Full Moon on the 31st January, and the fact that it’s the second Full Moon of the month (the ‘Blue’ Moon).  That means we’re celebrating a “Solilune”, a combination of a Solar and Lunar festival. Brigid herself is associated with the number three, through the elemental spaces of Land, Sea, and Sky, as well as the three characteristics of the Inner Flame: poesy, smith-craft, and healing.  Aisling also reminds us of the gift of Spirit represented by the Blue Moon – the rare and precious things that occur ‘once in a blue moon’.

At once my mind goes to Nanci Griffith’s beautiful ‘Once in a Very Blue Moon’…


But back to tarot…

Aisling’s provided us with a spread, based on all this three-ness. It comes in three parts, with each part involving three cards.  I’m using the beautiful Wildwood Tarot.

1) The Foundation -  honouring the solar festival of Imbolc and the Three Fires of Brigid.

Nine of Arrows (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The first of the three cards in this first of three sections represents Land and the body - the physical focus for the year ahead. I drew the Nine of Arrows. Subtitled 'Dedication', this reminds me that I need to be willing to work hard and be very disciplined when it comes to the physical side of life. This speaks to me on a personal level (wanting to regain my old level of physical fitness after a couple of years of battling health issues) but also in terms of being a 'protector of the Land', something else that has had to take a back seat for the past year or so. I see those eight arrows being repulsed by the invisible shield as all the things I've allowed to stand in my way, and that I now need the self-discipline to move past.




8 The Stag (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The second card represents Sky and the mind - the mental focus for the next 12 months. Here I have The Stag (8), indicating the need to take responsibility for my thoughts and beliefs, for any ideas I come up with. There's also a lot about strength and protection in here too, which will provide a good foundation for the second set of three cards (The Construction). It feels fitting to have this card here, given the astrological association of the Sun (rules Leo, the sign usually associated with Strength) - good solar energy!  The creators of the Wildwood Tarot envisaged the Stag as a combination of Strength and Justice, drawing on qualities of both. Strength, personal integrity, working for justice...I can see this at work already in this year's goals.




Four of Vessels (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The final card in this section represents Sea and spirit, the emotional and/or spiritual focus of the year to come. The Four of Vessels suggests I need to be aware of wasting my energy, and of allowing myself to remain feeling emotionally drained after illness.  I need to get off my backside and take action! Step through those gateways when they appear, or risk boredom....


....and speaking of gateways....








2) The Construction - honouring the lunar energy of the year. With this being the Full Moon associated with the rowan tree, we're looking at protection and guidance, and at guardians and gateways.

Seven of Arrows (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The first card in this middle section symbolizes the new path that presents itself. Back to the Arrows again for the first card in this third; this time it's the Seven of Arrows. The Green Woman in the image fends off the barrage of arrows, protecting herself. Very apt, in terms of the Rowan Moon we're celebrating. But what about the new path that presents itself? This is about not allowing fears - especially ones that are all in my mind and not rooted in reality - and confusion to hold me back. I see this at work already - for example, I'm panicking about a workshop I've been asked to run, even though it's months away. This particular fear is an old and very familiar one - the clue comes in the card's subtitle: insecurity!  Self-doubt and lack of confidence....




9 The Hooded Man (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The second card shows me what I will need protection from on my journey this year.  I have to admit I was initially very pleased to see The Hooded Man (9) appear here - one of my favourite cards from this deck. But when I thought about the position it's in, I'm less sure!  I like to give myself time and space to prepare for things, withdrawing when needed so that I can be still, and absorb what's going on so that I can better understand before taking the next step. But here it might be saying that I need to be wary of withdrawing too much - that doing so might not be in my best interests. Hmm.

The third card indicates what will guide and protect me. Two cards came out together here - the Three of Vessels and the Ten of Bows. 'Taking joy in responsibility' is what immediately comes to mind, based on the subtitles of each card. That reinforces the messages of the previous cards, I'd say - taking pleasure in what I've been asked to do or want to initiate, rather than resorting to the default position of panic and uncertainty - and, thinking about The Hooded Man's message, not to withdraw too quickly from added responsibility.  Now I wonder if there's two sides to The Hooded Man's appearance here: it will be OK to take the time to work out how much responsibility I can realistically take on, and learn to say 'no' when I reach my limit.

Three of Vessels (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
Ten of Bows (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot





















3) The Surprise - what 'once in a blue moon' treasures does the Universe have in store?
1 The Shaman (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot

The first card in this third and final section takes us back to the realm of the Land and the body - the physical. I've drawn The Shaman (1). This will help me understand what it is I can contribute to the world. Again, I see a link to the Hooded Man - taking time out to meditate, to listen to my inner guides, in order to gain insight. It also reminds me that I have all the tools I need already - it's up to me to work the magic.












Ace of Stones (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The next card looks at surprises in terms of the Sky - the mind. The only card from the earthy suit of Stones appearing here, the Ace of Stones suggests the seed of a new idea - something I can nurture into maturity over the course of the year. Great surprise - can't wait!  The combination of Earth and Air feels promising...perhaps that long-sought-after new source of income will manifest this year!













Six of Vessels (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
And finally, the last card – the third of the third – looks at Sea and spirit, the emotional and/or spiritual realm.  The appearance of the Six of Vessels fills me with hope.  Emotional reunions – yes, please: that would be a wonderful surprise. More time with my family, in particular! Drawing on what’s past and learning how to use that to move forward.

A card from the suit of Vessels and from the Majors in each of the three sections of the reading: an important year to stay in touch with my feelings, perhaps?! Not forgetting two cards from the Arrows - 'head' and 'heart' both important.

So, thank you, Aisling, for setting us this ‘illuminating’ topic, drawing on the energies of both luminaries as it does.  I’ll leave you with a photo of a dear friend of mine - named Soliluna!



And thank you all for stopping off here on your own journey through this Imbolc Tarot Blog Hop.  Please do come back and read some of my other posts through the year.  

The next stops on the Tarot Blog Hop are - depending on whether you’re moving backwards or forwards through the list – Jay's Metaphysical Angels and Willow Path Tarot. The Master List can be found here.



Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Aquarius in the Minor Arcana: The Five of Swords

Let’s continue our exploration of Aquarius in the tarot with a dip into the Minor Arcana.  In the astrological correspondence system that I follow, Aquarius is linked to the Five, Six and Seven of Swords (for more information on this system, I recommend Elizabeth Hazel’s Tarot Decoded, published by Weiser, 2004). Today I’m going to look at the Five of Swords, which corresponds to Venus in Aquarius – as well as the first ten days of Aquarius (so from the 20th to the 29th-30th January this year).

Five of Swords (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
Aquarius is the fixed Air sign, so we’re looking at maintaining lines of communications, and establishing ideas and concepts – but not just any old idea. This is the sign of the unconventional and the unorthodox, the reformer and revolutionary.  When we add Venus, the ‘principle of attraction’, to this we have a sign that expresses itself freely, perhaps flirtatiously – but very likely in an experimental way.  Aquarius can be detached and impersonal, so that flirtation might be very superficial and could impede the development of intimate relationships.  There’s a strong need for active socializing, for establishing groups based around a common cause, but this will be influenced by beliefs in individual freedom and expression, which could lead to conflict if not managed.

So how might this play out in the Five of Swords?  Let start with a relatively ‘traditional’ depiction of the Five of Swords, such as that of the Sharman-Burke/Caselli deck. Here we see a figure standing in a triumphant pose, holding three swords aloft while the other two lie at his feet.  Two figures behind him are creeping away in defeat, heading towards choppy waters and a stormy-looking sky.   Juliet Sharman-Burke, in her accompanying book to this deck, writes of needing to ‘accept the limits of both victory and defeat’.  The limits come through the fixed-ness of Aquarius, I feel – needing to recognize that there are limits to what we want to achieve, what we’re attracted to (the Venusian quality). Not that we have to give up, necessarily, but to accept a ‘temporary defeat’ or setback by objectively (Aquarius again) assessing how strong we are, be it as an individual or group, in relation to our opponent, be that another individual or community, and being able to step back from a battle that can’t be won.  A battle – not the ‘war’.  By knowing when to walk away from a situation or relationship, whatever it might be, we live to fight another day for what we believe in, what we’re pulled towards – the attraction principle, again.
Five of Swords (trimmed):
© Druid Craft Tarot

The Druid Craft’s image for this card is a relatively ‘traditional’ depiction, with a figure standing in a triumphant – or perhaps defiant - pose, holding three swords while the other two lie at his feet.  A hunched figure behind him slumps away in defeat – the risk of defeat over his belief in freedom of expression, perhaps?  The victor in this case may have acted without compassion or humility – the downside of Aquarian’s detachment, maybe.


In the Shadowscapes and Thoth decks, the emphasis is the same, although the images are different.  Things are out of balance due to the tension or conflict between ideologies, say – the harmony that we normally associate with Venus has been lost.  Aquarius looks towards the future though – it’s the forward-thinking sign.  The challenge is to stay objective, to be able to look at the situation clearly and to assess the options open to us, rather than succumbing to the loss of hope – the Venusian/Aquarian ideal.

Five of Swords (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
Five of Swords (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot




















If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might be interested in my e-book, Astrology in Tarot, now available from Amazon.


Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Druid Craft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.