Sunday, January 15, 2017

Live your life while it's still your turn. With the Strength card lending a hand.

There are so many of these encouraging instructions floating around the internet on how to live your life fully. Of course there's the always-entertaining Maxine.

Here are my two favourites.

The sublime, from Mary Oliver.

 “Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?” 

Her choice of words, so breathtaking, so glorious and magical, makes me believe, if only for a moment, that I too might be magical and wild. It makes me want to copy it out with shimmery gold and purple and turquoise inks and stars and swirls onto crackly crinkly paper and line my living room walls with it. It makes me want to wear velvet capes for everyday. It makes me want to ride on an elephant through India and Africa and sway on a camel through the lands of Marco Polo. It makes me want to...
And then I fall back to reality, exhausted from trying to leap so impossibly high.

I fall back to what I, plain old me, with more of my life behind me than ahead, might actually be able to do with the time left to me. And it's to this much more mundane and practical quote, from where or whom I don't remember, that I gravitate.

"Live your life while it's still your turn."

I can do that! It bolsters me, but is not a burden. It energizes me, and I don't quail at its simple advice.

And which card should come along this week, to stride along with me as I live out my turn? The Strength card! I smiled when I saw it! For living life, my own, whatever that might turn out to be, does take Strength. OK, Life, here I come!

I made a list of what I'll need.
1) Help with fear. I'm emotionally a coward, and go to great ostrich-like lengths to avoid confronting difficult issues.
Yes, you will feel vulnerable and exposed at times. Not much choice. You can do it. 
Haindl Tarot

You won't always know where you're going, how to get there, or what you'll face. Comes with the territory.
Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights

What if whatever I'm afraid of needs my help? That's possible, isn't it?
Vikings Tarot

What if it/she/he is afraid of me? I hadn't thought of that.
Margarete Petersen Tarot

2) Help with thinking outside the box. These two Strength cards are way outside the standard RWS-based tarot box. Umm...
Life is a mix of flowers and thorns; you want one, you'll have to accept the other.
You need to have your roots firmly planted in the earth to stand tall and blossom.
If you drink too much, you won't be able to stand up straight and flourish. 
Think sunny thoughts and ideas will begin to sprout.
Bloom where you're planted.
Want to see one of these in the wild? Plan a trip.
Xultun Tarot

You don't know anything about Papa Legba? Some research may be required. Perhaps you need to learn something or lay something to rest before moving ahead on your next great adventure.
Chrysalis Tarot

3) Help with accepting and welcoming a balance of the ordinary and the magical.
The magical bits are not the problem. I hope there will be a few of these WOW! moments.
Modern Spellcaster's Tarot

Hm. Love the tulips. OK, Google... badger on the kitchen table...
Elora Tarot

That's it for today from Strength!

Sunday, January 08, 2017

A fresh calendar, light, and wisdom of the Empresses

As a photo, this picture is a blurry dud. I was trying to capture individual fat fuzzy flakes flurrying outside my front door, and it didn't turn out as I imagined.
BUT as a symbol of the beginning of a new calendar year, where we don't yet know anything with clarity, it's a good image. And there's even some golden light ahead - I like that! Of course, the situation in the US has us all wondering what on earth will unfold there, since it will eventually impact all of us up here in Canada, and folks around the globe. I'm clinging to this image of light and hope!

My second pull from the new batch of 21 decks for Winter is III The Empress.
I thought that this card from the Shakespearean Tarot asked the perfect question for my (and our) world as we step into 2017. "What wisdom stirs amongst you?" indeed. And the Empresses told me.

By all means, continue to nurture and hold dear your families.
Whimsical Tarot (trimmed)

Golden Tarot

Cherish our Earth, use its resources wisely, and preserve it for future generations.
Chrysalis Tarot (cropped)

Vikings Tarot

Elora Tarot

But make no mistake. This is no wishy-washy tree-hugging flower child. Rattle the cage of a sweet-looking Empress, scratch the surface of that nature-loving woman, and you get a queen, a ruler, a boss, a person to be reckoned with. She won't be pushed around. This is no wimp who caves at the first whisper of opposition. Nuh-uh.
The Shakespeare Oracle

Golden Botticelli

Xultun Tarot

Returning now to the original "What wisdom stirs amongst you?" This is a question for all of us. If we give our collective wisdom a stir, what rises to the surface of the Empress' calm demeanour? A fighting spirit, that's what. If the people and ideals that we hold dear are out! We're ready to do battle. You can depend on it.
Golden Tarot of Klimt

Haindl Tarot

The English Magic Tarot

Modern Spellcaster's Tarot

Universal Fantasy Tarot

Look out, World. The Empresses are on the march!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

New year, new decks, the Fool and Ebenezer Scrooge.

Saturday, December 31, 2016
I cheated back on the Solstice, and kept shuffling and shuffling until one of the Majors popped up, because it seemed fitting to begin a new calendar year, a new season, and a new batch of decks with one of the bigwigs of the tarot. That the Fool appeared was just plain old luck! Fresh starts all 'round! 
(I lie. January falls midway through the teaching year, and isn't a fresh start at all for those of us involved in school, but merely the continuation of what began back in September.) 
In other words, 2017 blog-wise begins for me with cheating and lying. Off to a fine upstanding start!

This season's themes for choosing which decks to work with had to do with stars/shining/gilding, Shakespeare, world civilizations, artists' decks. And a few other random choices.

Sunday, January 1, 2017
Snuggled up in a new wrap, eating chocolate walnut pie, enjoying the brightness of the day outside my windows, and watching the 1951 A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim, it hit me. Scrooge's evolution brings him to a state of embarkation very much like that of a tarot Fool's. Poised on the precipice of a new kind of life, an adventure, unknown but intriguing, a bit of a risk.

If, like Scrooge, looking back on the past (or on 2016) brings with it some regrets and the need for atonement, these Fools can help.
Golden Tarot of Klimt

Haindl Tarot

If life on the edge appeals...
World Spirit Tarot

Modern Spellcaster's Tarot

Or maybe you'd rather have a seat, ponder your options, juggle some possibilities, before taking the leap.
Universal Fantasy Tarot

Gilded Tarot Royale

Don't mind being caught off guard? Given a little nudge? These are your guys!
The Shakespearian Tarot

Golden Botticelli

Looking for a window on the big wide wonderful world?
Margarete Petersen Tarot

Exotic travels, perhaps? Interested in writing about ancient and mysterious cultures? Researching a paper on the Far East? Check out these Fools!
Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights

Xultun Tarot

Minoan Tarot

Elora Tarot

Deciding to march to a different drummer this year?
Golden Tarot

Whatever you choose for your 2017, I hope it brings you JOY!
The Shakespeare Oracle


Monday, December 26, 2016

What I've learned from working with 23 decks at once...and an old family recipe

Twenty-three images in one go is a lot to take in. Once I got the hang of grouping them by their similarities, rather than looking at a random assortment of cards, picking out the few that stood out for their uniqueness was easy. My favourites were almost never the usual expected images, but those that came at the thought from another angle. The oh my god that's a gorgeous idea! ones, or the what the heck? ones which sent me scrambling for their companion books.  

There were surprises.
Because I have so many decks, I don't know them all, and have formed some half-baked opinions about the usefulness of many of them. In general I learned that some I didn't expect to like, I did. And vice-versa. For instance:
1) Some decks which I'd judged as lightweights thought-wise were the most evocative: Badgers Forest in particular.
2)  A few whose artwork I'd dismissed as too pale or too tiny were consistent favourites: notably the Celtic Dragon. (The colours appear to have been punched up a bit in this link.)
3) I expected some to grow on me as the weeks went by. They had nice art, but didn't speak to me. The Tarot of Trees is one example. Perhaps this is a deck that needs to be alone when one is working with it. 

On Winter Solstice December 21, I put away these 23 decks and chose a new group of 21. More about them in later posts. 

This recipe is thrown in as a reward for reading about what I've learned, because really, who except me cares? So thank you!

When my German Grandmother made these crescent-shaped almond cookies every Christmas, she weighed everything out in decagrams on her old scale. Which didn't help me one bit. So I went over to watch her bake, a long long time ago, and remeasured the flour, almonds, and sugar with my Canadian cups and half-cups.
Another difference between Gram's long-ago method and mine is that I've not the patience to put the almonds through the hopper of a rickety nut-grinder to get the light fluffy consistency of hers (even though I have her old grinder, the kind that clamps onto the kitchen table).

Gram's Kipfels

In processor:
1 1/2 cups raw almonds
3/4 cup sugar
Run until there aren't any big chunks of almonds. (The sugar stops them from turning into nut butter.)

In mixer: (Gram did this by hand.)
1 pound (2 cups) unsalted butter at room temp (salted just won't do)
the almond/sugar mixture
4 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp vanilla (I use real)

When it's all mixed together, form the dough into 2 square logs about 2 inches round and wrap in plastic wrap. This just makes it easier to cut off uniform pieces and form into crescents.  You can bake now, or keep in the fridge or a cold basement for a few days. Bring to room temp on baking day.
Slice the logs about 1 inch thick, cut in half, and form into rolls about 2 1/2 inches x 3/4 inch. Bend slightly to make crescents. It's a fairly dry dough, so if you try to bend them too much, they'll crack.

350 F, parchment-lined or ungreased cookie sheets. Baking 2 sheets at a time, rotate the pans and switch oven shelves at 11-12 minutes, bake another 11-12 minutes. They'll be quite brown on the bottom and a bit browned around the edges. After they're rolled in sugar, they'll look a lot whiter.
Let cool on the pans, roll in fruit sugar, store in tins. They keep for ages. (Fruit sugar is just extra-fine plain old sugar. You can make it by buzzing regular sugar in your processor.)

This makes 13 -14 dozen cookies. You can halve the recipe if you want!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Pages of Wands on Retirement

This is my last year of teaching piano. And it's the last week working with this particular set of 23 decks; on December 21st a new batch come out for Winter.

Last Friday I hosted my final students' Christmas Party. I've been whittling down the numbers in my piano studio for several years now, and the gathering would be a small one. So I issued invitations to some past graduates and their families. Throughout the evening, several groups arrived, gifts in tow, and the most wonderful babble ensued!
Cries of delight and surprise, hugs, catching up, comparing notes on university classes and exams, parents reminiscing on years gone by. 

As I watched them all interact, so happy to see each other, a great warmth and thankfulness enveloped me, and is still with me today. I feel incredibly blessed to have had so many beautiful families as a part of my life these many years.

I'm looking at endings - bittersweet - and the card that arrived to speak this week is the Page of Wands. A newbie to the court, who hasn't yet experienced many endings in life. What can s/he share with me, when our life stages are so different?

Quite a lot, as it turns out.

On the one extreme we have the "toughen up, cookie" group.
Change takes guts. There's no backing down. Moving on is not for sissies.
Daughters of the Moon Tarot

Celtic Tarot

Middle of the road is the "woo-hoo" group.
There are exciting new horizons out there! What an adventure! Think of the new friends you'll meet!
Glastonbury Tarot

Wicca Moon Tarot

Celtic Dragon Tarot

And then there are the sweet ones, looking back with fondness and delight on the good times past.
Tarot of the Hidden Realm

Badgers Forest Tarot

I shall endeavour to heed all their advices! 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas instructions from the Whimsical Tarot

Truth be told, I'd rather be curled up by the tree with its lights aglow, reading The Cricket on the Hearth or When Santa Fell to Earth, or watching a Christmas movie. Or cooking up the filling for a couple of tourtiere. Or digging through boxes of decorations and picking out my favourites. Or slicing into this year's fruitcake (oh, the anticipation!).

But, it's blogging time. And the only deck I own that has a Santa Claus card is the Whimsical Tarot drawn by Mary Hanson-Roberts. Father Christmas appears as card IV, the Emperor. Since Santa arrives on Christmas Eve, then the four preceding cards must have something helpful to say about the days leading up to it, right? That is my rationalization for this abbreviated post!
(Note: my deck has been cropped.)

Card 0 ~ the Fool


There are baskets to fill
and errands to run,
Nog and cider to swill,
Oh the fun! Oh the fun!

Card 1 ~ the Magician

I agree with you ~ Christmas is magical!
Here's what to do:
(start top left, read clockwise)
1. Wands ~ let loose your creative energy.
2. Swords ~ plan well, make lists.
3. Cups ~ take time to enjoy the prep.
4. Pents ~ budget, but not too much!

Card 2 ~ the High Priestess

Try not to get carried away.
Be a little sensible about what you can do.
Keep your expectations realistic.
Find some quiet time for your mind.
Christmas is more than a day ~ it bubbles inside you.

Card 3 ~ the Empress

Enjoy the people you have around you.
Some loved ones will be with you, others will not.
Let memories of Christmases past bring you a smile.

When your ideal does not come to fruition, shrug and let it go.
Be thankful for small things; you don't need a Norman Rockwell scene to be blessed!

Card 4 ~ the Emperor

Is Christmas just for kids?
Do you believe in Santa Claus?
Did you remember to water the tree?
Does this card make you smile?
Do you know the names of all my reindeer
Only if I sing Rudolph.
Do you remember where you've hidden all the gifts you bought? 
Well, maybe not all of them...