WHAT IS A BLOGHOP???
A Tarot Round Robin that happens eight times a year.
AKA blog collaboration. AKA Variety ftw!!
WHAT IS A Tarot Round Robin???
A group of bloggers
+ one question or topic
+ links* to the blog before, master list, & the blog after
= Tarot Train
WHAT IS A TAROT TRAIN???
*use the links at the top and bottom of this post to navigate the Hop.
For this Midsummer/Lammas Blog Hop, Joanne Sprott gave us a choice to write about the Sun and/or Mercury and their influence on tarot. I just knew I’d be in the library, full-on geek mode, elbow deep in Mercury and trickster themed mythology. I was hungry for stories of the Orishas from motherland Africa, and Google fell woefully short of information, at least the kind devoid of negative cultural bias.
ALAS, WHEAT FEVER!
No library for me. I brought in , with a little something I call “wheat fever.” It’s what happens when I go a few years without gluten and then arbitrarily add Kerbey Lane’s specialty pancakes, moderate stress, pizza, and miscellaneous grains-I-shouldn’t-eat to my diet. There’s nothing quite as humbling as food-induced inflammation.
Instead, I did some thinking about the merits of wheat-abstinence. I was able to glean a sliver of introduction to the Orishas, spirits that reflect manifestations of deity in the tradition of . I decided that it was Eshu that I would get to know for this post. Eshu, divine messenger, master of languages, connections, and karmic justice, translator of the Orishas, keeper of doorways, crossroads, and marketplaces.
I flooded myself with his symbols, the colors red, black, and white, the red parrot atop his head, the myriad headdresses. I began to see that while I wanted to know this spirit, I would not. I began to see myself on the outside of a threshold of knowledge. Even as I acknowledged my huge limitation as an outsider to Ifa and as a person completely unknown to the Orishas, I imagined what Eshu would look like expressed in tarot.
The Magician from the Tarot de St. Croix immediately came to mind. And like any self-respecting tarot enthusiast I bought the deck… for the blog post of course.
The contrasting colors of the Magician’s robe and hat reminded me of the contradictory nature of Eshu. The falling tarot cards, as if from the heavens, pass through the Messenger to the world and reminded me of Eshu’s gift of the divinatory system: Ifa. The red hat reminded me of the various prominent headdresses I saw in depictions of Eshu. In the card, the sun shines down as though to bless or endow the Magician/Messenger with divine knowledge.
Lisa de St. Croix’s blog explains that her Magician is a nod to the mystic, Rumi and he does seem to be doing a Sufi dance with his flowing robes and a cone-shaped hat. But it was already too late for me; he is forever Eshu in my eyes.
With messenger thoughts swirling, I headed to a spiritual retreat on the actual day of the Harvest: Aug 1st. The retreat was the doorway to a new-to-me spiritual community, to the revolution of my self-care, and to the genesis of this post.
I was struck by how the tone of words varied in different communities; retreat can mean backing away from a challenge or a conscious decision to withdraw and recharge; resistance can be heels digging in against spiritual expansion or the fortitude to stand against societally endorsed or prescribed norms of self-neglect. Because of my consideration of the energy of Mercury and the Divine Messenger Eshu, I was constantly aware of language (culture) as a filter for human experience.
I met amazing people and was grateful for the opportunity to listen to and learn from practitioners of Ifa. I danced, I journeyed and facilitated one of the best group tarot readings I have ever done. As they like to do, the cards repeated, weaving a pattern throughout all of our collective readings. One of the cards, in particular, reminded me of the trickster shadow of Eshu: 7 of swords.
The framing of Eshu as the evil trickster is due in part to the fearful Euro-centric Christian filter through which the Western written word passes. I’d hazard this happens in other cases where an oral tradition is written by outsiders. Some of the fear is related to Eshu’s role as the guardian of karmic law. He is a force that holds both deity and humans accountable. Accountability is a frightening thing. The further the concept from normal consciousness, the scarier the stories will become about fairness and consequences.
The less familiar we are with something, as humans, the more likely we are to fear and vilify the different thing. It’s human nature. As a queer (and also odd) black woman living in America, I am no stranger to the intersection of fear and differentness. I live my life at this crossroad whether I want to or not. The 7 of swords from the Tarot de St. Croix illustrates this crux poignantly.
I’ve never been a fan of the 7 of swords (who is?!), but I found St. Croix’s version downright triggering. It’s the first on the left, the black figure in the jailbird stripes. This image reminds me of prison systems in America, of the disproportionate amount of people of color in those prisons, of the relationship between capitalism and American prisons, and of the justice and police systems that keep prisons overflowing with people of color.
Typically when I see the 7 of swords, I can rationalize. I think of fox energy, and how depending on the perspective, the card tells a tale of victimhood or cunning, of lies or self-delusion. I experienced discomfort when I first saw the corresponding 7 of clouds from the Osho Zen deck, but nothing like the visceral emotional reaction that I had with the St. Croix. There could be no more intellectualizing; St. Croix’s image brought the feeling of helplessness home.
Through my triggered response, I was reminded of the domains of Eshu. Doorways, as in the identities we construct as children and are the threshold to the rest of the world. Crossroads, as in the challenges we face as adults that further shape our map of our experiences. Marketplaces, the places where we trade words, concepts, labor or bodies as in the cases of slavery or the industrialized prison complex.
The marketplace is where we trade tangible things and concepts about one another as cultural beings. It’s where we construct personas to sell our wares or rally followers. It’s where we use our intent to craft stories that wow, affirm, or distract the masses. It’s where we learn to produce products and also to consume.
As modern western thinkers, it’s second nature to expect instant access to information and gratification. We see something, we search it, we own/consume it. We are so used to this pattern that our neuro pathways are wired for it. It feels normal now, but it’s a departure from when the world consisted of the people on your street when neighbors pooled resources to get things done. Rather than looking to expand and consume, people offered and communed. Or so I’m told; hell I wasn’t there!
With the help of the Tarot de St. Croix, I was able to grasp the full emotional extent of the Magician’s association with Mercury and exchanges: money, information, resources, labor, and bodies. I was also able to get a richer read of the 7 of Swords. (It’s a beautiful multicultural deck. Check out St. Croix’s blog to see more images or buy the deck.) I’m grateful for the trigger. It keeps me emotionally connected to the entire range of experience depicted by the card: from a tragedy like the death of Sandra Bland, caused by the systemic breakdown of socio-political systems, to the snide comment overheard at work. The 7 of swords can be all of this and more, or less.
Messages, information, and stories compel and inspire emotions. Intent and awareness are the tools (filter) that shape the entire perceived world; hence the power, wonder, and sometimes fear, associated with a messenger god-like Esu- as both the champion of karmic justice and the trickster that brings us wisdom through the hard lesson. And isn’t that what Mercury, communication, and trade do, as well? Crystallize our filters of one another and our experience of the world? Use your tools wisely.
– About the Author –
Siobhan is an NYC-born writer, intuitive, and professional tarot reader living in central Texas. She moonlights as an aerialist, poet, educator and alternative relationship coach. She creates diverse spaces, provides compassionate and inspiring facilitation, and cultivates awareness.