Ancestral Lineage Tarot Spread

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This is a spread I did on the last New Moon, coinciding with Samhain and also Day of the Dead. I considered this to be an auspicious time to honour my ancestors, but also to ask the cards for a message, or information, on my ancestral lineage.

There are many different ways of doing such a spread, and equally different ways of asking questions – these variables are up to each practitioner to choose and alter as they see fit. You might also want to think what the word “ancestor” means to you. When I did this spread, I wasn’t just thinking about family relatives I’ve known that have passed away – I was also thinking about those that I never met, such as great great grand-parents, and their parents before that, and their parents before that, and on and on along the karmic thread. Their names I’ll never know, yet collectively they hold a rich body of knowledge and wisdom that I wish to both honour and learn from.

Here is the 10 card spread below:

Cards 1, 2 and 3: What is my ancestral lineage?
Cards 4, 5 and 6: What gifts do my ancestors offer?
Cards 7, 8 and 9: What lessons do they need me to learn?
Card 10: What do they help me to develop and become in this lifetime?

dscn2114Naturally one may adapt this any way they see fit. When I asked the first question, What is my ancestral lineage, my intent was solely to distil the core essence of the main life lessons or karmic energy handed down over the bloodline. Here is what I received, using the Haindl Tarot:

 

 

Cards 1, 2 and 3: What is my ancestral lineage?

Strength – The Emperor – The Tower

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Whoa, 3 majors, no big deal (deep breaths). The keywords here are strength, power, and breakthrough. Haindl’s version of the Strength card in particular is powerful and arresting: the woman in this card has strength over the snake, symbolic of one’s kundalini energy but also shamanic, transformative power. More than just having strength over it, to me she raises it as if to honour this power, and use it in a ritual.

Then there is the Emperor, speaking of authority. Both the woman in Strength, and the Emperor are naked: they are part of nature, not dominating it.

The Tower, the last card, is the only one in the trio showing a man-made structure falling apart. The Tower is freedom and illumination at the same time, breaking the rules and gaining insights, experiencing a release from that which imprisons us in our own, man-made world. So far, so good.

Cards 4, 5 and 6: What gifts do my ancestors offer?

2 of Cups (Love) – Isis (Princess of Swords) – 2 of Swords (Peace)

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This was a lovely and supportive 3 card spread. I literally felt my ancestors say, we are here for you, with you. Call upon us when you need to feel loved, when you need peace. Number 2 showing up twice, symmetrically on either side of Isis, speaks of relationship: one – to – one.  

Isis (the equivalent of Knight of Swords in the more traditional RWS deck) is associated with, among other things, the after-life, and in one way, this card stands for my ancestors, but in another way, it also stands for the gift of such knowledge offered by them, alongside that of wisdom and prophecy. 

Cards 7, 8 and 9: What lessons do they need me to learn?

7 of Cups (Illusions of Success) – The Devil – 9 of Wands (Power)

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Sheesh, they don’t mince their words, do they?! This was basically a warning to not take my power and misuse it, but also to not get caught up in the ego-driven quest for power and self-importance, particularly when working in the world of magic. Because it is so, so magnetic, and utterly irresistible at times, and it a world where, should one misuse their power, they can get lost and lose themselves eternally in the fog. 

But equally, and paradoxically, it is also about knowing my own power, and my fears, and channelling that in a healthy way. Having the ability to separate what is real from what is not can be a challenge when working in the realm of magic, for, as someone noted, the universe speaks in a symbolic language, but not everything that happens is symbolic. Knowing the difference between the two is what separates the shaman from the insane.

Finally let me just say that having the Devil turn out in this line, made me smile just a little. For as I’ve written before, I am currently in a Devil year (ending in December), and as such I’ve been slowly learning a bit about this much misunderstood energy, for lack of a better word.

Card 10: What do they help me to develop and become in this lifetime?

Queen of Stones (Spider Woman)
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Finally, here I am 🙂 I had a mixed reaction when I saw this card. Mainly, I was elated, for I felt it an honour to have such a strong shamanic woman as a model to develop and grow into. I also felt a tad intimidated, and the usual doubts crept up. On the whole though, out of all the mature (Queen) cards, I find her exceptionally magnetic, intensely powerful, and equally formidable. This is the equivalent of the Queen of Pentacles in the traditional RWS deck, and is thus contains a very pragmatic, down-to-earth energy. This is someone rooted in the real world, yet aware of the other dimensions symbolised in the labyrinth.

dscn2116It would be an understatement to say that this spread left me a little speechless, albeit in a good way.  There are many more layers in this spread than what I’ve written about in this short post, I feel. I am still processing it, I guess 🙂

I’d love to read if anyone else tries this and something similar, and what their experiences are. Many blessings and wishing everyone a magical week ahead,
Monica

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Honouring our ancestors

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Flower offerings on the altar, alongside Maman Brigitte from the Dark Goddess Tarot and an icon of Mary

Today is Samhain. Today is the Day of the Dead. Today is a New Moon in Scorpio. It is a time of potency, and a time of magic. It is also, a time to honour our ancestral lineage.

Our modern world, with its constant future-driven deadlines and technological advances, has little time to spare for our collective past. Yet, as a practitioner of natural magic, as a pagan, tarot reader and astrologer, knowing my past, where I come from and what sustains my roots in this physical and psychic world, is as imperative as the air I breathe. And I find myself, a Romanian born kiwi now living in tropical Australia, at a cross-roads in my magical practice.

It’s more of a conundrum, I suppose, and it essentially boils down to this: what traditional practices do I make use of, what do I apply from the rich lore handed down over generations (and what do I discard), now that I live in a place that is so foreign to my cultural background, but also that is essentially uncharted territory from the perspective of modern magic and witchcraft, most of which is based on English or American traditions.

As a simple example, take Samhain, an autumn festival, which is now being celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere – however, down south, most of the pagans, witches and those immersed in the rhythm of our natural world, are celebrating Beltane, which is a spring festival, in line with the climatic (seasonal) changes that apply “down under”. But let me take even this one step further, and note that to be honest, in this part of Australia (north Queensland), there are only two seasons: winter (dry) and summer (wet). You can see it’s starting to get murky, for to me, the practice of natural magic is a practice rooted in your own current environment, and a knowledge and awareness of that environment is critical to your success – particularly when you start to work with herbs, with the crystals and stones of your own ground, with the waters that flow in your region.

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Flowers and Frankincense (Star of Bethlehem) on my altar prior to craft work

And so, I found myself pondering these matters yesterday in preparation for my ritual work today, and came to the conclusion that I need to do what feels right for me (versus what a book dictates). In line with this, the New Moon in Scorpio confirmed this to be an auspicious time to honour the dead, specifically my ancestral lineage.

With this in mind, I collected a mix of flowers as an offer to the dead. These were all collected on the morning immediately prior to the ritual, and grow easily in my garden: nasturtiums, dill, marigolds and Mimosa pudica (sensitive weed).

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Burning incense: frankincense, myrrh, sage and lemon myrtle

I also offered fresh water and incense, and burned a variety of herbs for protection and magic. I acknowledged my ancestors, and thanked them for their guidance and blessings. There is no set ritual wording I use for this – it is a fluid, flexible dedication that comes from the heart, in the spirit of connection and reverence.

Once done, I spent some time shuffling the cards and doing an Ancestral Lineage tarot spread, which I will share with you next time for it’s too long to go into detail here. Suffice to say, it left me a little stunned to read (in a good way!). I literally felt the magic envelop my room as I was dealing the cards, always a good omen that my dedication was acknowledged.

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Ancestral Lineage Tarot Spread using the Haindl Tarot (to be posted in the next instalment)

Finally, I went for a walk and collected sensitive weed. I will also post about this in a later post, but essentially, I am trying to work with what I’ve got, for both medicinal and magical purposes. It’s a thorny plant, so I figured it goes well with that Scorpio Moon energy 🙂

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Collecting sensitive weed (Mimosa pudica). This is, as the name suggests, labelled a “weed”, and yet its medicinal uses have long been recorded and recently proven by science.

Wishing everyone all over the world a safe and magical Samhain / Beltane / Halloween / Day of the Dead, and New Moon in Scorpio.

Blessings,
Monica

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Essence

Haindl Tarot

There are times when I read tarot, and I get a certain feeling – like I’m connecting with a deep energy, a timeless and infinite essence. It is very hard to describe, but when this happens, I feel like asking questions that go beyond the here and now. It’s when I want to peel a few more layers and see what lies beneath the surface, and it’s all about me.

A while ago now, when I was in “the zone”, I asked the cards What is my true self? I wanted to get to know me, in other words: who am I? I could feel the intense energy as I was shuffling, and knew it would be a loaded answer. And here you have it: The Fool – The Lovers – The Magician. The Haindl deck is an amazing divinatory and sacred work of art. To get 3 majors in a row like that left me a little shocked, to be honest.

So, what does it all mean? I am not sure an answer is straightforward – because it is the type of answer that takes months and years to digest, to understand and to realize. So far, The Fool relates to my need to explore life, to be on a journey, to live for an adventure; to be free, and to be spontaneous. The Lovers, that is my life path number. There is some karmic energy to sort through with regards to The Lovers, specifically around partnership choices. And the Magician is about having the ability to create magic, which is something I am learning more about. It’s not just about studying the occult (personally I have a strong interest in the field), but it’s also about realizing that I have the power and ability to direct my life and make whatever I set my sights on happen.

Many blessings,

Monica

Tea break

I have the most comforting memories as a child of my grandmother picking and drying linden blossom. I would often accompany her as she walked through the nearby park and streets and pick out the linden flowers. It is one of my favourite smells, and I recall getting home after school and entering the living room of my grandparents’ apartment to be greeted by a sweet aroma of aromatic flowers, neatly laid out on newspapers. What delight it was to discover a couple of streets in my neighbourhood planted with linden trees. Also known as lime trees, they make great street and park trees, and once in flower are a magnet for bees. I am careful not to pick from streets that are prone to heavy traffic, and luckily the neighbourhood I found these trees in is rather quiet and quaint.

Once again, I got out my Haindl deck during the recent full moon, and asked for a major that relates to linden blossom.

Haindl Tarot

Unfortunately, I have packed away all my herb books!! So I am left wondering of the relationship between the Hierophant and linden blossom. In fact I wonder if this is a personal one for me, since I associate these flowers, and the tea made out of them, with my grandmother – teaching and tradition come to mind here. I know that one of the uses of linden tea is to calm a nervous person, to aid with sleep and anxiety, but not much else beyond this.

To be honest, I often drink herbal teas just for the pleasure of it, rather than as a medical aid – although long-term, a little bit every day is sure to be the best medicine. I save the dried linden blossom for special nights in winter when it’s cold and miserable and all I want to do is curl up with the cat, or when I feel I have a cold coming on.

Given that autumn has truly arrived in New Zealand, I’m getting out my last jar of this lovely flower and carefully rationing it 🙂

Strength

I was exceptionally honoured last week to be the guest speaker for the Tarot Guild of Aotearoa. The Guild meets once a month and there is always an interesting presentation given by men and women who have a fascinating history of tarot work and depth knowledge. So when Fern asked me to present I was really, really honoured, even though my biggest fear is speaking in public. Seriously, I cannot even explain how big this fear is. I’m talking colossal, gigantic waves of panic and fear that go through me when I have to do this kind of stuff. It started in high school – actually, it started before then when I was a school kid in Romania, and you had to stand up in front of the class and be questioned by the teacher on the day’s lessons. It goes way back, and it has only escalated as I’ve gotten older, to the point that even sitting in a small group of people and having to introduce myself gives me a panic attack. Heck, someone has even given this thing a name.

What can one do? Well, I could say no and not do it. But I love tarot and I want to go a really, really long way with this. If you find something that really helps you in life, something that guides you through some pretty dark times, and something you love – you’ve got to share it with others. No need to preach – but if the opportunity comes, don’t knock it. I am very lucky that I know the root causes of this fear, and I have been introduced to tapping work (EFT). Yes, when I first read up on EFT I thought it was crazy, but seriously, it works. It’s even put me to sleep a couple of years back when I had insomnia. So I did a lot of tapping, and a lot of pretending in my living room (I hope the neighbours didn’t get freaked out by me standing in the middle of the living room talking to… well, no one). And it all went according to plan, as much as one can for an hour-long presentation – with very little nerves once I got the ball rolling.

I gave a talk on the Haindl Tarot, because it is my all time favourite deck, but more importantly, it’s got such a depth to it that is very rarely seen with a lot of decks these days. The messages, the vision, and the spiritual philosophies contained within speak to all of us, they speak of the political, environmental and spiritual paths that currently challenge us. My only regret with regards to going overseas is that I will not be in NZ to attend the Southern Symposium in June where there will be a screening of the documentary on the making of this deck.

I’ll be in a mountain town in Romania at the time – most likely reading with the Haindl tarot and doing yoga in between chatting with my grandma. 🙂

Arcana Tea – Chamomile

Chamomile flowers

The gentle chamomile is growing in my garden, soon to be harvested for tea. I wondered which major arcana this little gem would be associated with, and today I got around to sitting with my Haindl deck pondering the garden universe. I drew the Death card.

A little bit perplexing, that. What does Death mean in the tarot? The old cliché of a shady reader pulling the Death card can be laughable, until you get this card and someone actually dies. It doesn’t happen often, but let’s admit the inevitable conclusion for everyone, is death. Even for those who believe in reincarnation, my body, my character, my face, and the thousand traits that make Monica today will not be repeated in the exact replica in a hundred, or a thousand years, or ever (unless you would like to start a discussion on metaphysical realities, quantum physics and the like, and I’m staying well clear of that subject, thank you!).

Death - Haindl Tarot

Best known for its ability to relax, chamomile was well-known to the ancients, and Egyptians in fact dedicated it to the Sun God. It was also well-known to the Greeks, being recommended by Dioscorides as a medicine for fevers in 900 BC, and it was one of the 9 sacred herbs of the Saxons, who used it as a sedative and calmative for stomach upsets.  Quite a reputation, wouldn’t you say?! Still, none of this explained to me its relation with the Death card – of course, Death, whether literally or metaphorically brings about great anxiety and stress – letting go, endings and beginnings are times one can surely do with a cup of chamomile. And then I came across this passage, from The Complete Floral Healer:

Not only does chamomile benefit ailing people but it has also been used traditionally to cure sick plants and was known as the plants’ physician. Chamomile tea can be added to a vase of drooping flowers to revive them and chamomile can be planted in the garden to remedy ailing plants or to prevent disease.

It was also respected by our ancestors as a grave plant, to ease the passage of the dead into the world to come.”

I mean, I don’t necessarily have to have some confirmation today on this topic, and I’m sure insights will be coming through years down the track – but still, it’s nice when you see a direct link. On that note, I’m off to brew a cuppa and play some more with my cards. I have to say I’m really enjoying this blogging thing, it’s opened up a whole new world – all these people, all over the world, writing about tarot with beautiful photography and exploring so many wonderful decks. Thanks everyone for all your sharing!

Haindl Tarot

One of the reasons I started to blog is to share information and reviews of some of the decks that I have (it’s an ever-increasing list, and I now use the word “collector” to give some justifiable meaning for this accumulation).

While not my first deck, the Haindl Tarot by German painter Hermann Haindl is certainly my “personal” deck. It is one that I had an instant connection with, one that I love and if I were to pick just one deck above all others, this would be it. It is not one that I would recommend to beginners, however, for two reasons. First, it does not use pictorial scenes for the Minor Arcana which is simple pips with various backgrounds, and one needs to be fairly conversant with numerology, and particular the applications of numerological meanings within each elemental suit. Secondly – and this I find more important – is the use of titles in each Minor Arcana card.

For example, the 8 of Cups has the title “Disappointment”. I remember a friend once picking this card up for a question about a love relationship – and seeing the sadness on her face. And while tarot readings are about honesty, and I know there is a whole spectrum of meaning behind the 8 of Cups, one needs a healthy dose of objectivity when using such a deck, as it is far too easy for the querent to allow words like “Disappointment” or “Uselessness” to bring in emotional bias (and vice versa with cards that have “Victory” or “Happiness” as their title).

Haindl Minor Arcana

The above aside, the Haindl Tarot is an incredibly beautiful deck, one that showcases imagery from different cultural mythologies and has a deeply humanistic and environmental focus. It is a deck highly suitable for meditative work and for introspective insights, for those times when I ask questions that have a more philosophical bent rather that the day-to-day worldly concerns. The deck also has two books written by Rachel Pollack, one for the Minor Arcana and one for the Major Arcana – I have found these to be very helpful in terms of giving additional information on the symbology and background for the cards.

“The Haindl Tarot certainly contains a great deal of information. Most importantly, however, it opens our minds. It leads us to see the world in a new way (or perhaps a very old way), as a vessel filled with spiritual power and truth. Many people in recent decades have sought this understanding. Through its powerful images, and because we use the Tarot rather than just look at it, the Haindl Tarot helps them experience this understanding.” Rachel Pollack

 

The Majors have Hebrew letters, astrological glyphs and the Runic alphabet inscribed on them, while the Minors have the I-Ching, so there is certainly a wealth of information to discover as you learn it. The Court Cards are drawn from different cultural mythological figures: India for the suit of Wands, Europe for the suit of Cups, Egypt for the suit of Swords, and Native American for the suit of Stones (Pentacles). He also removed the European ruling class titles (King, Queen etc), so that the King is renamed Father, the Queen is renamed Mother, the Knight becomes Daughter and the Page becomes Son. This gives the Court Cards a more original portrayal, as well as giving the deck a unique humanistic feel.

 

Haindl Tarot Deck

Shown above, from left to right are: The Empress, The Emperor, Strength, Death, 4 of Stones (titled The Power of the Earth) and the image on the back of the cards. Some people have said they find the back imagery (the eye) a little too intense, personally this only adds another layer of depth to the whole deck and has never discouraged me from using it. I particularly love the way these cards feel when I shuffle them – for me the tactile, tangible experience of what a deck feels like is very important, and I do not find plastic laminated cards appealing – too slippery and difficult to cut. After 3 years of shuffling this deck, the cards are still in very good condition despite their not so glossy cardstock.

Haindl Tarot - The Empress

Though Hermann Haindl worked to a large extent unconsciously – not planning the symbolism so much as allowing it to emerge in the painting – the pictures present a complex yet, at the same time, unified vision… we can describe the central theme of the Haindl Tarot as the renewal of the Earth – not just the material resources but the spiritual Earth.

Rachel Pollack: The Haindl Tarot – The Major Arcana (2002)