Friday, February 8, 2008

A card for today - King of Wands

Fire. One of the five elements that has been worshiped by cultures and religions across the world. Our ancestors are supposed to have discovered fire (or rather, discovered the use and control of fire. They must have seen fire in many of its forms - volcanic eruptions, forest fires, lightning and so on, (although one wonders whether they could associate fire with lightning.) Fire has been essential to the survival of man through his journeys across continents and across ice ages. In Tarot, the element of fire is associated with the Suit of Wands and represents the world of ACTION. In so many ways, action has been essential for our survival too. Thoughts and feelings are important, they help us understand the world around us, but what use are they if not supported by tangible action? As in all the other suits of the Tarot deck, the King is the epitome of the represented element. The King of Wands stands for strong, positive, purposeful action. But don't think that this King is ONLY about action. Its not that he cannot think or feel. Like you and me, he is equipped with intellect and sentiments, so also he is possessed by all human follies. He can of course think and feel, but the one thing that sets him apart from others is that he does not let his thoughts and feelings become liabilities that will impede action. So he is not reckless or impulsive. He is just decisive. He has fire in the belly that makes him get up and finish the job without procrastination or postponement. Just like fire, the element he represents, he has the ability to transform. Fire can burn, evaporate or even melt solid objects. By doing this, fire can convert solid rocks into lava and make them flow down the sides of volcanoes. It can melt steel and make it suitable to be forged into a sword. 

The King of Wands is thus a mobilizing force for everyone around him. In fact, he can simply not tolerate inaction. Laziness will cause him to be angry. But he will also not waste his time persuading the lazy man to get into action. He will tell so once or twice, but he has no time to waste on people who don't emulate his example. This great burst of energy, impatience and sense of urgency can also prove to be his shadow side. In his foresight where his vision is fixed ahead, he can lose sight of whats next. Not that it matters to him, because he has the ability to overcome small challenges, niggling starting troubles. But then, this can make him arrogant and insensitive to someone else (for a genuine reason), who is be as forthcoming with action as he is. His quick retort would be "if I can do it, why cant you?" I suspect that he wont even ask this question, because he does not have the patience to wait for an explanation. He would rather say "since I can do it, you should be able to do it too."
Remember that in spite of all his impatience and intolerance, he is still the KING. So he has surely not got there by a stroke of luck of sheer chance. He has acted upon his thoughts, exhibited a positive enthusiasm for creating a better future for himself (and for his people too, I am sure. He is not a selfish King.) He is a King who walks the talk. Creative, outgoing, belligerent, bold, charismatic - he leads by example.
The four court cards in each suit can also looked at as those representing Experiment (Page), Explore (Knight), Experience (Queen) and Express (King). The King also represents the masculine element, which naturally works from inside to outside, not the other way (from outside in, which comes very naturally to the feminine element.
Note - the picture shows the Knight of Wands from Aliester Crowley's Thoth deck. The nomenclature in this deck is different and can confuse newcomers in this exploration. The more conventional court cards of Page, Prince, Queen and King become Princess, Prince, Queen and Knight respectively in the Thoth deck. In most traditional or conventional decks (like the rider Waite) all Knights are riding a horse and all Kings are seated
on a throne. In the Thoth deck, all Knights (read kings) are again on horseback, but they represent the peak for that element (Fire in the case of Wands). I believe that this is particularly relevant to the King of Wands. I would rather see this King ride forth on his steed rather than sit comfortably in his throne (shown from the Rider Waite deck here). True, compared to the other three kings, this one sits on the edge of his throne rather than relaxing in it, signifying that he is ready to spring into action.

The card asks us to look at our world of action and goal orientation. In a reversed situation, it should make us look at those areas of life where we are looking for reasons for not acting. Yes, maybe some reasons that are not within our control do become unsurmountable hurdles, but certainly there are factors which are clearly WITHIN our control, yet we continue to externalize, give excuses and forget to act.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A card for today - 9th January

Eight cups seem to spring out of a dark ocean. The darkness is intensified by dark clouds looming above. Many 'vacant holes' on the ocean surface seem to suggest there were more cups like these here. (Or there are going to be more cups? I dont know for sure. It appears there were.) Three cups are finely poised on lotus leaves. Two lotuses bend downwards to two more cups and water/nectar appears to flow out of them into these cups. They are in fact overflowing into two more cups below. Overall, it seems to depict abundance. 'My cup of joy is flowing over.....' But then, I have no enthusiasm to pick up any of these cups, leave alone drink from them. It all seems so, well, momentary and transient. How soon would all the cups become empty and possibly vanish, to leave more such gaping holes in the surface of the ocean. How many such cups has the ocean swallowed already? The picture is fascinating enough to get my attention riveted for some time, but only so much. Thus far and no further. There are other things that call me, and I must go.

The card is asking me some questions for tomorrow -

If I look at whatever I have gained after years of labour, what does it all look like? How much of it is still worthwhile? Is there something which has lost its meaning? Am I hanging on to things just because they are mine? What if all this suddenly disappears or is taken away from me? Would I really feel sad?

I will feel sad, yes. But devastated, no.

Sometimes in the world around us, the one we have created for ourselves, everything looks perfect. But one knows inside that the time has come to move on. Crowley calls it 'indolence' - which is being beyond grief or joy. I suppose thats the state of being a 'stitha pradnya' as described in the Bhagavad Gita.

What do I need to let go? What holds me back?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A new begnning with the Thoth deck

I possess six different Tarot decks but usually I end up engaging with either one of the classic Rider-Waite, the Sharman-Castelli, or the Mythic Tarot deck. I have had the Thoth deck for more than two years now, but have somehow not ventured into it so far. My friend who has been an inspiration for me to begin exploring the world of Tarot cards gifted me this deck. I have believed his word that it doesn't help to be purposive with the cards. You can't study them like you study for an exam. So for the past two years, I didn't get perturbed by the fact that I was still not using the Thoth deck. It would just 'happen' some day.
Aleister Crowley, the creator of this deck, has been described in different ways, each one more interesting than the other. One of these is “the wickedest man in the world!!” I fancy I have a far-fetched connection with this wicked man.
In 1905, he was a part of the expedition that attempted to climb Mt. Kangchenjunga. His fellow climber Alexis Pache and three sherpas were caught in an avalanche. Apprarently, Crowley remained sitting calmly in his tent, sipping tea. He later told a newspaper that, “"not over-anxious in the render help. A mountain accident of this sort is one of the things for which I have no sympathy whatever". Now, 73 years later, in 1988, I was a part of an Indian expedition to Kangchenjunga, and stayed for 17 days at the base camp, at a place known as Pache's grave. I have thus walked the same path up the mountain which Crowley did in 1905. So yes, the connection is far-fetched !
I have been wanting to begin my posts about specific cards from the Tarot. To write my first post related to a specific card here, I instinctively picked up the Thoth deck and drew a card for tomorrow. Its the Eight of Cups..... Crowley calls this card 'Indolence'.
So what is this card telling me?