Monday, January 28, 2013

Curses, Negative Energy And How To Avoid Them

Do you think you're cursed? Unlucky? Born under a bad sign? Well, you may well be unlucky, and I think we've all felt that way now and again. But cursed? That's a lot less likely than people might think. And unfortunately, there are con artists willing to remove a curse from you- for a fee. The odds are you're not cursed, unless someone really has it out for you. While it's certainly possible that there are some malevolent witches, sorcerers, or what have you out there with nothing better to do than hurl curses at people, the odds are you are not cursed. Let's start by reviewing the basic anatomy of a curse. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a curse as a prayer or invocation for harm or injury to come upon one; imprecation. So we can assume first, a curse is deliberate. It's not like tripping on the sidewalk and poof, you're cursed. No, like all such things, a curse requires will and intent. It also requires a specific target- curses are not generally mechanical in nature, like you see in the movies- pick up the artifact, step into the house/tomb/whatever, open the door, read from the book, whatever else Hollywood has come up with, and you set the curse in motion upon yourself, like winding up a watch.
Don't mistake negative energy for a curse! And don't listen to anyone who does. 

Many of us may be familiar with the idea that what we send out comes back to us three times. I think the three is a bit of an arbitrary number, but the principle is certainly true. So when cursing someone, you wind up with the same malevolence coming back on your own head. Like I said, if you're cursed, someone must really have it out for you. There's an interesting article on the Witchvox website about curses- though it raises an interesting point- there is a distinction between a curse and negative energy. The author doesn't seem to fully make this distinction, but I think it's one worth examining  here.
So to review here, we have two distinct areas of negativity- one is indeed, a curse. The other is simply negative thought patterns, self-fulfilling prophecies, and self-doubt. This second is much more common than a curse, and will crop up in the context of a reading. If you're feeling down and bad luck seems to have your number, don't despair! The best antidote to negative energy is, well, positive energy. Take control of your own life, and make things happen that you want to have happen. It could be you're working through some negative aspects of your past- that's fine, just know that this too will pass. Try to keep things in perspective- I can tell you from experience, when you're stressed out and one thing after another happens, you're ready to just about lose your mind! This is human nature, but understanding it can go a good ways towards helping you. If you consult your friendly neighborhood Tarot reader with a question about why your life seems to be going south in a hurry, the answer shouldn't be "you have a generational/whatever curse, you need to have it lifted". At least, not right off the bat. I can't rule out the possibility, though I myself have never encountered this situation so far. I will say that the odds of you being under a curse, generational or otherwise, are very, very slim. Coming to a reader with this type of question, you'll usually find that there are some patterns in your life, either conscious or otherwise, that can trap you in a cycle of negativity. Some of these are easier to change than others- some not. Nonetheless, it can be done. The main thing is to keep an open mind where these things are concerned. Don't let habit, ego or both stand in the way of what you want to see happen. In some cases the person stuck in this cycle of negativity may not realize the nature of the problem, but always keep an open mind, and always be willing to change for the better, and to listen to the guidance the world around you is providing.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Hecate Spread

There are a great many spreads available- perhaps even more spreads than there are readers! The right spread can assist in clarifying a question and providing insight, just as the wrong spread can confuse the issue and cloud the answer. In some cases a reader can customize a spread to fit the question or personality of the querent. The question can also aid in determining what type of spread will be most effective- what does the querent want to know from the reading?

I developed this spread to help answer questions relating to the direction of life and decision making- what factors contribute to thought patterns in the present, as well as what factors on an emotional and tangible level. The design of this spread was inspired in part by the Present spread from Anna Cortez, and also incorporates Hecate, the Greek patroness of witches. She is often portrayed with three faces, or three forms- a young woman, the maiden, a mature woman, the mother, and finally an old wise woman, the crone. These three aspects also represent various phases of life, or various phases of development, from potential to actuality to consequence, and this is in part what the spread is meant to convey. This spread is useful for decision making or examining a life path- where things are going, and what factors contribute to where the querent currently finds his or herself.
The layout of the spread is here:


2  5  8

3  6  9

4  7  10
In this spread, there are three vertical columns, and three horizontal rows. (We'll leave the first card for now). The vertical columns represent the three aspects of Hecate- the left hand column represents the Maiden aspect, the middle column represents the Mother aspect, and the right- hand column represents the Crone aspect. The three horizontal rows indicate three levels on which the querent interacts with the world around them- the top level represents cognitive factors, the middle represents emotional and spiritual factors, and the lower level represents physical aspects- assets, stepping stones or stumbling blocks. I gave each position a name to indicate its position in time and level of influence.
1. The Torch- this position represents the overall influence and direction the querent has taken so far, and represents the path of life this person has chosen. This position can also provide the overall theme of the reading.
2. The Maiden's Eye- in this position, we're dealing with the past, things that have occurred already, yet nonetheless can continue to influence the present. Here are past experiences and memories.
3. The Maiden's Heart- here are emotional memories, as well as guidance provided in the past that has led up to the present- think of this position as where the querent's heart and emotions, as well as higher intuition, have led them. Here also we may see subconscious factors, or something in the past that the querent has overlooked, but nonetheless does influence the situation.
4. The Maiden's Foot- this is any obstacles, tangible factors (employment, finances and similar) and opportunities that have led the querent to the current situation in material terms. Financial hardships, job opportunities they have taken as well as troubles will appear here.
When interpreting these first 4 cards, the key is to understand where the querent is coming from- the Maiden represents a malleable, shapeable aspect of the querent, and what factors have shaped who they are today. These experiences and beliefs will likewise guide and shape who they become in the present- and by extension, where the future will lead them.
5. The Mother's Eye- This position tells of the querent's current outlook and viewpoint on their current situation. Positive or negative, this also can influence what decisions the querent makes. An important factor to keep in mind here is what the querent sees and likewise, overlooks.
6. The Mother's Heart- here again are emotional factors in the present, and spiritual guidance the querent finds. Here also are subconscious influences, things the querent may not be readily aware of, or again, overlooked. Here are the subtle nudges that guide the querent, for better or worse.
7. The Mother's Foot- Again, in this position we find current tangible influences- whereas the previous position dealt with hopes and fears, this position deals with physical factors- decisions the querent makes, as well as opportunities and goals at the present time.
With the middle three positions, the goal here is to provide a current viewpoint of the situation; mental, emotional and physical. This can be influenced by what has come before, as experience can contribute to current understanding, as well as  the querent's current outlook.
8- The Crone's Eye- Here is the outlook of the querent, what they expect to see. Here also are desired outcomes and expectations about the future. This likewise is based on the current situation and past experiences, which create in turn expectations.
9. The Crone's Heart- here are factors involving hopes and fears for the future. What the querent hopes and fears for the future may be represented here, as well as where the Divine may be guiding a given individual in the longer term. Look here for clues to where the querent is being led, or what decisions they make regarding their future.
10. The Crone's Foot- Here we find the final, physical manifestation of the querent's decisions and path of life. This position can also indicate the jumping-off point, so to speak, for the next stage of the querent's life.
When interpreting this last column, the key is understanding both how the querent has been influenced by the past and present, and using these factors to determine probable outcomes. As the Crone is a figure of wisdom coming from experience, think of this as a kind of hindsight without the hind. The three right hand cards are meant to determine likely outcomes from what's going on at present. If the querent wishes to change this outcome, the factors to do this can appear both in their own thoughts and actions at present.
Overall, this spread is meant to determine longer-term influences on a person, and how those influences manifest, and have manifested already. Remember, the ability to change your path is always within you, and the key to initiating change is understanding.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Every Picture Tells A Story

Here's a question I've encountered before- why do you need a Tarot reader? Can you just read the cards yourself? The answer to that is yes, you can read your own cards, and many people do this. It's sometimes harder to be objective, and you may find that it's difficult to avoid reading into the cards, and simply seeing what you want to see.
However, Tarot writer Sasha Fenton makes an interesting point in her book Super Tarot- that the cards form a kind of narrative, and it's up to the reader to provide interpretation of the cards and messages in them.  When a question is framed, we kind of get the general outline of the story. Who and what is our story addressing? Where does the story seem likely to be going? And what other people are likely to come into play?
As the reading progresses, more details become filled in, and like with any story, be on the lookout for plot twists and unexpected factors. I'm going to generalize a bit, but readings will more often than not fall into three main areas- past, present, and future. The past points to influences and factors that have led up to the present situation and how decisions and actions shape the present. The present in turn deals with the decisions and reactions occurring at present, which can pave the way for the future. The future then shows what is likely to happen. We can change this future by changing our decisions in the present. It's also true that some factors are easier to change than others, and some may be very persistent.
And in the midst of present and future, the cards themselves come into play. Examining the cards is not simply a matter of rote memorization. There are other factors to consider- what each card represents relative to the situation, and what each card will mean in terms of  influence and effect.
Barbara Moore, another Tarot author, makes mention in her companion book The Steampunk Tarot Manual of core meanings, and this is a useful way to approach readings. Think of the cards as symbols- there will be a core meaning to the card, as well as relational factors that tie into that core meaning. The core meaning is the gist of the card- what you would describe it as in a couple sentences. Take as a for example the Temperance card- this version is from the Vertigo Tarot.
I chose this particular card because it's on the abstract side. Notice the two vessels in this figure's hands- they are combining their contents together, and this can provide a part of the core meaning of this card. It's about balance, combining and synthesis. With these key words, we can begin to develop a more specific interpretation for the card in each situation. What other cards surround this one, and how does that factor into the card's role in the reading? Let's say we're dealing with a question about a relationship, and along with  Temperance we see the Five of Cups and the Four of Swords. The Five indicates a sense of loss and perhaps a troubled past- it could be that this person is holding on to emotional baggage or scars from previous relationships, and the Four of Swords adds to that message by indicating that it's time to step back and get a little perspective. The Temperance card would tell of using those past troubles and hurts not to be overly cautious in starting a new relationship, but rather to use the lessons learned from these past relationships (and perhaps even past failures) to grow emotionally- the  message here would be not to rush into a new relationship and make the same mistakes all over again, but to bring the knowledge of what has occurred already and grow from the experience. Take the joy and companionship from the current relationship and temper it with the wisdom gained from the past. Don't be too eager to jump in, but don't be  too bitter not to try again.
There's that same core message of balance and synthesis, along with a few other factors- the nature of the question, the other factors that come to bear, and the meanings of other cards that surround it. Many readers also look to intuition- it's true that there are factors that are generally not explainable in terms of our current scientific understanding. I'd like to think there's a "not yet" attached to the end of that statement as well. But the common experience of readers seems to be that this intuitive sense grows and develops over time- like a muscle, it grows stronger with repeated use.
There are, to sum up, several factors that go into a reading, and make an effective reader for that matter. It's both a matter of learning to read, and learning to tell the story written there.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Merkaba Spread

In this new year, I thought it would be a good idea to include a weekly entry on different Tarot spreads- a spread being the way the cards are laid out to extract information and insight from them. There are about as many different spreads out there as there are readers, and in many cases readers develop a handful of spreads they like to use. It depends largely on the reader, and different spreads often resonate with different people. I'll include here the ones that I frequently use.
Spreads can often be categorized based on what they are intended to do- there are spreads for relationships, situations and career, as well as more general spreads. Most people are familiar with a Celtic Cross spread, most commonly using ten cards, which form first a cross shape, then a line of four cards.
Today's spread is called a Merkaba Spread- it's also spelled Merkabah, but same difference. A merkaba is a funky little geometrical shape, and has several metaphysical connotations. The term comes from Hebrew, and on an interesting side note, translates roughly as chariot or vehicle, and is thought to refer to the seat God appears seated on in the prophetic books of the Bible.
All of which is beyond the scope of using a Merkaba Spread. This spread's focus does fit in with the concept of a vehicle or chariot, as it shows how the past leads up to the future; how the past conditions and prepares us for the decisions we make in the future. In terms of its utility, the Merkaba Spread is a situational spread, pointing to what factors influence a decision we may be facing, and what the outcome of a possible choice can be. Drawn geometrically, a merkaba looks something like this:
Somewhat like if you held a pyramid in each hand, then squished your hands together. The Merkaba Spread has two dimensions, rather than three, and like this, has a kind of symmetry to it. The cards are as follows:


No, you don't have to draw in the lines. The numbers here indicate the order the cards are laid out in, and the explanation of each position is as follows:
1. The Essence- at the center of the diagram, this card represents both the main issue of the reading, and also any long-term influences on the decision at hand, or the person making the decision.
2. Experience- This card is a representation of past experiences, both in terms of habits and patterns of behavior and in terms of life experiences. It could also be that these patterns are partially or wholly automatic or unconscious, and bringing them to light can help in some cases to change them.
3. Influences- Here we find more external factors in influencing the decision- other people and their opinions are indicated here, as well as situational factors that the decision-maker may take into account or be influenced by.
4. Opportunities- Moving from the past to the future, this position expresses one of two things- in many cases simply the same thing viewed from different points of view- either obstacles or opportunities at the present time, and either prompting or coming from change in the present situation.
5. Potential- This can be seen as the next step from the previous card, as here is the ways in which opportunities can be made use of. This too is dependent on thinking patterns and habit, and both of these can influence how and even if this is utilized.
6. Progression- Think of the 4th, 5th and 6th cards as representing development from the situation. The Progression card indicates the next step from the decisions that have been made, and how the decisions begin to unfold.
7. Outcome- This final card tells of what you can expect to see based on the path of decisions and choices that have been made- remember that this is not set in stone; you are always free to change an unfavorable or negative outcome, but the Outcome position represents the culmination of what has come before- change the decisions along the way, and change the outcome.
In this spread, I found the symmetry interesting to examine. There are two triangles, one pointing upwards, representing the future, and one pointing downwards, representing what has come about already. In the center is a single card, which is the first card laid out, representing an overall influence on this situation. Though it might seem like the old Wiccan adage "As above, so below" applies in this case, perhaps a better way to phrase it would be "as before, so again"- what we do in the past will have an impact on how our futures unfold; likewise, what we do in the present will manifest both in the present and down the line in the future.
There are a wide variety of sizes and complexities of spreads out there, and in many cases spreads can seem similar. This is certainly true, however at the same time, pick a spread you're comfortable with, and one that "speaks" to you. There are no brownie points for learning every spread in the proverbial book; rather, learn those spreads that work well for you, and work well for those you do readings for. The advice I was given in this area was learn a handful of spreads very well, and feel free to add either your own or spreads you have learned as time goes on. Not everyone reads cards in the exact same way- it's both an art and a science, as has frequently been said.