Midsummer Sun

Picture from my Midsummer Greeting of the Summer Sun excursion.  May Alfrodul’s blessing be upon the land and may our days be illuminated by her warmth and glory!

Hail, great Alfrodul, glory of elves, brightest of Aesynur!

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Dragonlance Tarot: Fantasies and Archetypes, part 1

I was thinking one day about the effects of story upon our lives.  In today’s era it’s difficult to find good examples of heroism and honor, humility, and what power really is.  As a young man I had some good people in my life that were examples of how people should act…but I was probing why I feel the way I do about deeper issues of faith, community, religion, education, and honor.  Being over forty, I was even more curious about why things from my youth are still with me, why interests that I had and why stories I enjoyed way back when still live with me on a daily basis.

One of the ways by which I think about stories is through the lens of Tarot (Runes as well, but modern man is more easily definable via the Tarot). The Tarot path holds many lessons and the archetypes found within it arise from history and fiction, religion and humanism, esotericism and exotericism and therefore Tarot encapsulates the whole of modern western culture. Once one is familiar with the symbolism of the Tarot it can be placed like a transparent layer over any story or experience in order to pull out nuances of subtle wisdom.

not the Dragonlance Tarot

not the Dragonlance Tarot

This post is about me creating a Tarot deck from the Dragonlance series – Which I did, and which is a physical deck that I currently own and conduct readings with.  It was born out of me wanting to personally define the importance of it’s characters in my life and why this fictional world (among others) continues to be one that I think about.  It is a world of moral questions, of gods and dragons, knights and wizards…I’ll admit I don’t read much (or any) of it these days, but I believe that like any loved story in ones past it still influences me to this day.

I am refraining from posting images of the deck, simply because I wouldn’t want them to be copied, printed, and sold.  But I thought I would share some thoughts on the cards I chose and what changes I made.  Unlike my Star Wars Tarot which was constructed from already published playing card decks, the Dragonlance Tarot is a cobbled together deck from well known Dragonlance images. Creating a Tarot deck is an interesting task, it was a process of growth that forced me to examine these stories with a new eye.  rather than just being entertained by these stories I was  looking below the surface, probing the motivations of characters, wondering why the authors built the world the way they did, why it functioned the way it did.

It is a complete set of Tarot, 78 cards. It uses only well known Dragonlance images and novel cover art, but for the Moon and Sun cards. The Minor Arcana, the pips, are not images, but like older decks are merely numbered.

The cards:  Lances = Wands and the courts are represented by Heroes.  Orbs = Cups and are represented by wizards and clerics; Swords = Swords and represented by knights; Pentacles = Discs and represented by Dragons.

Court Cards:  Lances = King is Tanis, Queen is Laurana, Knight is Gilthas, Page is Gerard;  Orbs = King is Dalamar, Queen = Crysania, Knight= Palin, Page= Elistan;  Swords = King is Sturm, Queen is Kitiara, Knight is Steele, Page is Mina;  Discs = King is Aurican, Queen is Malys, Knight is Skie, Page is Chaos dragon/draconian.

Major Arcana: 0 = Tas, 1= Raistlin, 2= Goldmoon, 3 = Heart/Silvara/Humas Tomb, 4= Huma, 5= Flint, 6=Caramon and Tika, 7= Citadel, 8= Kerianseray, 9=Porthios, 10= Stars of Krynn, 11= Cataclysm, 12= Kerrick, 13= soth, 14= Caramon, 15= Takhisis, 16= High Clerists tower, 17=Lost Citadel, 18=Tower of Moon/Takaluras, 19= Tower of the Sun/Qualinost, 20= Kingpriest, 21= Inn of the Last Home/Solace.

If you’ve read my Star Wars tarot posts you know that I go into some detail about why certain cards were used.  Being that this deck is so unique I th0ught I’d do the same.

Highlights of the Major Arcana:

the Fool: Tasslehoff Burrfoot is the Fool.  He exemplifies the idea of Wanderlust (as does the Fool), moving before thinking just for the sake of the experience and new adventure.  He is also changed by his voyages and perhaps in the end the most wise of all the archetypes.  Is the Fool the beginning of wisdom or the end result of life’s adventures?

the Magician: Raistlin.   The Magician doesn’t necessarily have to be a good character but merely one who understands power and the elements by which power is attained/accomplished.  Raistlin here is depicted in his study within the Tower of High Sorcery in Palanthas, ready to delve deeper into the mysteries of existence and magic.

Strength: This is Kerianseray a Kagonesti elf (wild elf) and rebel.  Her nickname is the Lioness.  She is a servant when we first meet her in the series, behind the scenes she however is a warrior fighting for her people.  Strength is the card that holds the wisdom of subtle power, a power that comes from gentleness rather than physical force, a strength of intellect that is like a yoke for physical prowess – brute force tempered with knowledge and patience.

the Hangman: This card depicts Kerrick, a dark elf (outcast) of Silvanesti.  The image shows him floating on a bit of ice following his exile and on his way to Icewall.  Along with the unsteady nature of the ice and water, Kerrick much like the Hangman is unsure of where he will start or end his journey.

Temperance: Caramon.  Caramon is a man of heart and action.  His greatest asset is compassion and the love he has for his friends and brother.  Like the lessons of Temperance Caramon tries to balance many things in his life that sometimes cannot be reconciled.  In the end he realizes that some things must be left behind in order to find happiness.

the Tower: Probably one of the heaviest scenes in all of Dragonlance.  I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t read Dragon Nights.  The tower here is the High Clerists Tower and it’s being tested by the armies of Takhisis.  Sometimes destruction and obstacles make us stronger and force us to rebuild or reconfigure our lives.

the Moon: This is the Tower of the Moon found in Dargonesti (I believe), it is the residence of the Speaker of the Moon. These elves are water elves and their cities are undersea.  The moon card has a deep relationship with water and its illusory nature.

Judgmenet: The Kingpriest is depicted here.  Judgement is not justice and it doesn’t mean a balanced or wise indivisual is dispensing it.  Judgement merely tells us that it’s time to choose something-  good, indifferent, or bad.

the World: This shows Solace, more specifically the Inn of the Last Home.  The home, or at least the base for the heroes.  Solace is the example by which right and justice are evaluated in Dragonlance.  It’s a place of beauty and ‘home’, the place where the adventure begins, and what the heroes are fighting to maintain as the example of social order.

This deck being based off of Rider-Waite  symbolism I thought some direct comparisons would be interesting:

The pic I used for the High Priestess depicting Goldmoon in this role is from the cover of Dragons of Autumn Twilight:

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DL High Priestess

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RW HP

Goldmoon mirrors the original RW example very well.  She is the holder of ancient wisdom and the medium between which the old worlds and the new communicate, the gateway through which the old gods return to a world that has forgotten them, the balance between opposites.  Both cards depict the HP holding the important occult vessels, important artifacts of hidden lore.  Some quotes from Waite’s The Pictorial Key to the Tarot illustrate how closely these versions relate to one another:

“The scroll in her hands is inscribed with the word Tora, signifying the Greater Law, the Secret Law and the second sense of the Word.”(1)…According to Kabalism, there is a Shekinah both above and below. In the superior world it is called Binah, the Supernal Understanding which reflects to the emanations that are beneath. In the lower world it is MaIkuth–that world being, for this purpose, understood as a blessed Kingdom that with which it is made blessed being the Indwelling Glory.”(2)
This passage directly discusses the power of the HP to unit heaven and earth which can be seen signified by the Blue Crystal Staff held by Goldmoon in the picture touching the earth and the sky. Further…
“Mystically speaking, the Shekinah is the Spiritual Bride of the just man, and when he reads the Law she gives the Divine meaning.”(3)
Elistan (portrayed as the Page of Orbs in the DL Tarot) who is healed by Goldmoon via the Staff and the power of the old gods, eventually is able to read the Discs of Mishakal which relate the laws of the old gods.

 The previous example is exactly how a seeker after the mystery of the Tarot delves into symbolism.  It begins with a concrete image and begins to flower into a mosaic of pieces that fit together in odd correspondences.

Perhaps I will post a second DL Tarot article that compares other cards shortly.

*****

1,2,3.Arthur Edward Waite (2014-06-15). The Pictorial Key To The Tarot (Illustrated) (p. 39). . Kindle Edition.

Dragonlance Lexicon found at: http://dragonlancenexus.com/lexicon/index.php?title=Main_Page

A simple red orb – 6/10/2015

Just a quick post here.  I was walking the dogs last night with my wife.  We reached one of the small parks that are in my local community and I happened to look up into the sky.

In a tree there was a kite in the shape of a month with colorful stained glass type wings. The body didn’t strike me as that of a butterfly but of a moth; being somewhat bland and thick, heavier in my mind that that of a butterflies.  Anyway, I saw a red light in the sky beyond and above the tree.  A thought it was odd because it flew straight up and not horizontally as a plane, it was about 7pm and still very light outside with very little cloud cover however the red light was very bright.  I kept my eyes on it for about a minute.  I looked away to check on the dogs and then found the light in the sky again, it still was rising. I thought it was probably nothing out of the ordinary, but turning again to check on the dogs and back to the sky the red orb was gone.

I mentioned it to my wife, she shrugged, and we left the park.

Meandering

Last week I created a labyrinth in my backyard.  It’s a simple three circuit labyrinth, very small and simply placed.  I haven’t outlined the whole thing, and I’m not sure if I will or not at this point.

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My simple labyrinth

 

I merely placed large stones at the major points and turns, and hope to be able to ware the grass away where the path has been formed.  So far it’s working out great and I should have a nicely seen path very soon.  My experience walking it so far has been calming.  I find it a very reflective process and even strangely liberating.

Doing research on labyrinth myths and folk beliefs leads one to believe that labyrinths were used not just for meditation and reflection, but also as a way to purge oneself of worry and evils.  In the folk history of nothern europe one finds that these stone labyrinths were used to insure good fishing expeditions by trapping trolls or beings/spirits not conducive to such endeavors.  Literally people would walk a labyrinth to trap a following negative spirit in the center…seems a bit metaphoric doesn’t it.   They can also be, according to some sources, related to seasonal changes, that walking them may have emulated the awakening of the earth goddess in spring and her ‘greeting’ of the sky-god.  This interaction would have been ritualized with a young woman being placed in the center and a boy walking the labyrinth in order to find and claim her to enact the drama of spring.

Again, the benefits of labyrinths seem pretty clear to me; They offer a time of reflection, a time to put aside worry, a time of meditation, and a time of focused seperation from anything and everything else in your life.  It’s no wonder that one finds labyrinths all over Europe, in churches and at sites thought to be sacred to pagans.  Whether or not pagans were using labyrinths prior to Christians in Europe or just alongside them is anyone’s guess, but certainly in the Mediterranean labyrinths were being discussed and utilized well before the Christian era.

some references:

http://www.labyrinthos.net/pagansweden.html

http://www.ukforsk.se/nya/vhm.htm

A mystics attempt at demystifying and re-mystifying the Tarot

One of the challenges facing the new Tarot student is coming to a personal understanding of what Tarot is or is not.   Does it hold the answer for everything past and present, or is it just a collection of paper with pretty pictures?  That’s a large spectrum to begin with, but I think the extremity of those positions is fairly honest  in how both skeptics and enthusiasts see Tarot.

I’ve studied copious amounts of Tarot material, and the one thing I’ve taken away from it is this; Tarot, as modern readers and users know it, has very little in common with the card game (s) it was meant to be used for when it (or its very similar predecessor) was created in the 15th century.  All the thousands of books on the Tarot are merely guides on how everyone else perceives Tarot, and if you’re using Tarot in any way as a spiritual/mystical/life informing-affirming tool you’re relying on a very kabbalistic/hermetic creation of the 19th century. Yes, you can read the Golden Dawn material and derive all the meanings that modern practitioners use (most without even knowing themselves where much of that symbolism derives from), you can read the how-to books, and those on Tarosophy…But if you honestly look at and question the Tarot what will be your personal stance on the cards?

My stance has mostly always been that Tarot is nothing special.  I don’t charge my cards with crystals, I don’t assume they hold the keys to universal knowledge, and I don’t expect them to answer all the problems plaguing my sub-conscious.  More than not I lean toward the Tarot being a bunch of paper with pretty pictures.  Yet, I read Tarot and I work with Tarot nearly on a daily basis.  Odd you say.  Not really, I respond.  Things in my opinion don’t hold power – people do.

Tarot is a repository of wisdom, yes.  It is not wisdom in and of itself.  Tarot bares (or can bare) in it’s images generations of knowledge, a heritage of what it means to live in a Western society.  It conveys the psychological and sociological truths that we as modern individuals have been adapted to live within for hundreds of years at this point.  The multi-layered fabric of the Tarot is woven from the threads of that which we all share, it’s a mirror reflecting the great ‘Dreaming’ of Western culture – the truths of work, relationships, life challenges, our emotional well being, religion, etc.

Crowley, in his popular book The Book of Thoth expounded that the Tarot is a representation of the Cosmos, that each card is also a being, and that the deck is literally the composition and culmination of the Wisdom of Thoth.   I don’t think the Cosmos is written in the Tarot, I feel it’s wisdom is much more terrestrial and immediate to our lives – I don’t feel that each card is a unique entity but a mirror of our own existence – and Thoth had very little to do with the creation of a 15th century card game.   And to be blunt true/historical Tarot should have nothing to do with Kabbalistic wisdom.  Can it? Sure.  The beauty of Tarot is that, again, it’s a reflection of what the Reader brings to it…I tend to be pretty rational (in my opinion) when using tools like Tarot.  Some would say though that Tarot is a tool of the irrational..so there you go.

My tendency is toward seeing Tarot as a Reality Simulation device.  It’s a technology that functions as  a Simulation of events and life situations based in reality.   Jean Baudrillard, a French sociologist is a great place to start with such thinking.  He goes a bit further to say that perhaps most of our icons and the symbols of our society (which Tarot of course uses and probably IS) are mostly historical and even fictitious to the modern westerner, but I digress…There is a Tarot book by Emily Auger which discusses briefly these concepts, and even postulates that Tarot is a kind of Cyber Reality Simulation, which is an absolutely inspired way of looking at the Tarot.  Cyber here means artificial or a Technology that has been manufactured or created, just as the Tarot is a technology; an artificial representation of reality. This concept really influenced my image of the Tarot and what it means to be a Reader – and the mental image of a Cyberpunk Astralnaut jacked into a fanned out Tarot spread while he co-mingles fiction, fact, and history into a hazy surreal blend of human potential is an awesome ideal.

Tarot, to end it all, is about what makes sense to you in your world.  Just as the final Major is The World (or perhaps the Fool), it’s up to the journeyer to discover just what it will be.  Use the books, use the websites, and the tutorials but remember that the mirror of the tarot is for you to understand and should not be used as just another technology meant to box you in.

Druish and those Druids

I’ve been doing tons of soul searching these days about this Druish (Druid) thing –   Is it important to have in my life? And why? And what does that mean?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is important in my life and not in the way that it has been previously.  What does that mean?  Well, it means that for me Druidry is not a Religion in and of itself, at least not to someone like myself who practices a very Heathen/Norse Religion.  For me Druid/Druish goes beyond any kind of specific tenet or dogma or even mythology.  It carries with it a history of Nature, Truth, and Mysticism that has a definition hundreds of years long through many varied changes, organizations, and minds.  It’s difficult to say for me that any particular era in that long history is any more relevant than another…

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I’ve been trying on the operations and rituals of a few different Druid groups. Most have very Wiccan-esque, Golden Dawn inspired aspects that just don’t sit well with me.  I mainly stick with a Fire, Well, Tree composition as the basis for much of my religious work, which stems from studies of Indo-european mytho constructs.  I’m just not well suited to a Hermetically inspired religious framework I’m finding, so most of the revival era Druidisms are not cutting it.  More than anything I’m personally finding that Druidry is not a central focus of my practice but an addition.  My practice is not going to change drastically and if you’ve read my Morning Devotional posts you’re more or less familiar with it.  I am very happy with my Religious practice as it is and I’m not going to pepper it with components that don’t jive with it such as directional honorings or elemental correspondences or cabalistic craziness.  I’m still working on a personal definition of Druid –  but Nature, Truth, Mysticism (a definition that sat well with me some 10-15years ago) pretty much sums it up,  though one of Peace, Knowledge, and Power sounds good too. Those definitions don’t contain a ‘this is how Druids do ritual’ or this is what they believe slogan, it merely holds a philosophical outlook.

So where does that leave me.  I think it leaves me with RDNA, or it’s like; A non-hierarchical, non-dogmatic, and a very non-specific form of Druishishness that is not Revival based, but is Reformed and open.  The one thing I didn’t like about ADF is that it calls itself a Religion ” ADF will be a Neopagan religion..,” in the words of it’s founder, Isaac Bonewits.  I can respect that vision, but it’s not what Druid means to me.

I’m left wondering still if I need to belong to or support a Druid organization or if my current practice is enough.  Druidry does not modify my practice but energizes it, it is not a practice in and of itself but a mindset…in the end perhaps it really doesn’t matter one way or another.

 

Moving On and Beyond

So, it’s been about a month since leaving ADF.  I’m not sure yet where I stand…kind of odd to still be using much of the liturgy found within the Org and yet not officially being a part of it.   But then the ritual structure of Fire, Well, Tree: Ancestors, Nature Spirits, Gods – certainly is not ADF exclusive as it has it’s roots in Indo-european myth and cosmology and can be easily found with very little research.

I have contemplated more than once why I don’t just rejoin if my practice is going to be similar to what it’s been for the near decade of my membership.  But then my leaving wasn’t necessarily based on my agreement or disagreement with the philosophy behind the Orgs ritual frame (although I do have certain issues with it and have for years trimmed away much of what I didn’t like)….it was more on the current motivating vision found in the physical Org.

It’s been rather cathartic being a freelance pagan again.  Though no member of any Org should ever feel locked into a certain mode of religious practice – not being a card holding member of this or that feels a bit boundless.  I’ve thought about membership in a few other Orgs…AODA, The Troth, FoDLA, OBOD, RDNA to name a few.   I did join the Troth, as I feel the richness of the membership pool and the openness of their ritual form still allows me the freedom to pursue a practice that is mine.  Also the Troth is of value to me in that it is specifically Germanic/Norse/Teutonic based, and positive in it’s outlook.  One of the things that annoyed me about being in ADF was that I had to explain what my membership meant.  I’ve never considered myself a ‘Druid’ and I’m not a Celtophile, I’d always have to add a cavaet about being a Heathen within a primarily Celtic/Druid leaning organization, it gets tiring.

If I were to join a ‘Druid’ org again it would probably be along the lines of RDNA or OBOD, a more philosophically based form of Druidry that is more personal and less dogmatic, and not as Theistic.   However I don’t feel the need to belong to any of these yet or to support them with my dues or membership…I’m still trying to cleanse my palate a bit.  If there’s one thing I’m questioning after leaving ADF is my Hard Polytheist stance while under it’s banner.  That’s not to say that I’m not as pious in my practice only that it seems to be changing.

I’m also thinking deeply about getting an independent Heathen group off the ground in my area, a challenging endeavor that has failed in the past.