Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Changing thoughts on Good Friday, and the Bohemian Gothic

As a kid:
I appreciated the day off from school, and sort of liked the ancient story read in a warm church with the smells of spring floating in through open windows. It was completely different from any other church experience (and I had a lot of them, growing up Catholic and attending an all-girls' convent school). Here's the grotto at St. Mary's Academy, my alma mater. Note the uniforms and beanies on our heads. The nuns never let us climb around and explore in there, citing the danger of the rocks collapsing, which I never believed for a minute. So we had to sneak in when they weren't looking (which wasn't often).

Our block growing up was fully WASP (there is nothing intrinsically derogatory about White Anglo-Saxon Protestant and yet it feels like a put-down, which I don't mean it to be) except for the Tannenbaums, us, and another Catholic family who didn't seem to spend much time at Mass. I remember feeling so religiously superior to be going to church on that weekday. Although, now that I think of it, that was probably a cover for being mad that I couldn't stay home and skip rope with my unenlightened Protestant friends.

Through the choir years:
The this-one-is-unique feeling persisted.

  • Music (elaborate Requiems, certain anthems and hymns) heard only on that day.
  • A long (well, OK, really really long) gospel read by many people taking the parts of the narrator, Jesus, Pontius Pilate, Peter, etc. The crowd yelling its few lines (the choir always did the hollering nasty rabble bits; kind of a hoot to yell in church).
  • A meal together, put on by the church after the morning's rehearsal and before the noon service, sharing lunch with guest instrumentalists and choir 'ringers'. A welcome chatty break before the work began.
So even as my connection to the actual religious content steadily declined and eventually disappeared, the day itself still resonated powerfully.

This past Friday, April 14:
First of all, it's not really my choir anymore. Since I retired from it a few years ago, their long-time director resigned and they've hired a new person, who is a great guy - personable, welcoming, fine musician. But as always happens with a changing of the guard, some choir members leave, and other ones affiliated with the new director arrive. So at least 1/2 the choir is now unknown to me. It doesn't feel like 'home' anymore.
Secondly, and much more important, that very long gospel of the Passion of Jesus Christ changed for me. As we stood and listened to the roles being read out, and yelled our choir lines playing 'the crowd', I was struck, not by the familiar-ness of the story from that long-ago day, but by the hate and gratuitous violence. It sounded like a newscast I would switch off, a movie I'd avoid like the plague, or a Facebook post I would delete because it offended me.

So, what to take away from that? 
It's a story that is still being re-enacted, alas, all over the world. And it was difficult to listen to.

How much does organized religion have to answer for, as regards persecution across the globe?
Probably a lot.

Because I recoiled from it last Friday, does that mean that I'm done forever with singing on Good Friday?
I hope not. The music is haunting and beautiful.

Have I lost the 'this day is special' feeling I've enjoyed for decades?
I don't know the answer yet. It's too fresh.

How to tie this to tarot?
I'm not sure. I guess I'll go to the decks that are out for this Spring, and choose one of them to respond to my feelings about last Friday's gospel.

Which deck?
The one that rushes into my mind is the Bohemian Gothic, because of its darkness. The events of that first Good Friday (why on earth is it called 'good'?) and similar current events surely come from the dark side of our nature.

A spread? A single card?
Since this change of feeling about Good Friday was sudden, and jumped out at me, I decided to shuffle until two cards jumped out. (How interesting - 2 cards, both Majors. I'm glad the cards acknowledge that this feels big to me.)

  • A person in each card is facing to the right, to the future.
  • The standout colour - red - is near her heart in the Lovers. Feelings, emotions from long ago.
  • And it's on the cap of the Hierophant. Put head first, going forward? More thinking, learning, knowledge?
  • The numbers of these Majors - 6 Lovers, 5 Hierophant - are consecutive, yet backwards. Maybe take a step backwards to fill in some historical information about Good Friday? Is that even possible? I don't know.

1. Processing this sadness  The Lovers

Let go of the past if it no longer serves, even if that idea brings sadness.

What ties you to the past is not necessarily healthy, even though your heart feels great love for it.

Breaking bonds is difficult.

Letting go of cherished notions hurts.

What is it you love about that idea? Sort out the harm from the good, and keep what is wholesome.

The past still loves you and wants to hold you. What will you do about that?

(It's interesting that this young woman is wearing a mantilla on her head, which is what we sometimes had to drape over ourselves if we forgot to wear a hat or our funny little green school beanies. Women covering their heads was a requirement in the Catholic church, in the dinosaur years when I was growing up.)

2. Going forward  The Hierophant

By all means, feel free to frown. This is hard work.

What is in his hand? Is it something he's now questioning or rejecting? Could be...

There's a figure in the background from an earlier time. Research? Comparative religious thought?

His robe has dozens of buttons on it. He's all buttoned up, and could use some loosening of the restrictions he's placed upon himself.

There's a window on the world outside. Does what he believes to be true need a fresh look vis-à-vis the real world? Do his beliefs need updating?

He struggles alone with his thoughts. Could he use some help? Trusted friends? A mentor? A study group?

As usually happens when one captures thoughts or concerns on paper (or screen), some clarity begins to take shape. Thank you, keyboard!