A Feminist Tarot: Judgment

We all hold on too tight to things we ought to let go.  It’s one of those human commonalities which should make it easier to understand each other but rarely works that way.  And this card tells us to come to terms with those things and let them go.

It’s rarely logical, the things we cling to, and the way we judge our bodies is often among the most damaging of these, the most illogical, and very difficult to change.  Even when we make choices meant to break through bonds, we often find that the release is more difficult than we expect.

 

 

It’s so much easier to see strength and beauty and courage in others than it is in ourselves.  It’s easier to cheer on others who defy damaging norms and restrictive standards than it is to defy them ourselves.

It’s easier to see the harm in the expectations placed upon us than it is to face the possible repercussions for being the rebel who chooses to break them.

I knew immediately that I wanted to draw this card as a woman looking at herself in a mirror.  This card tells us to bring up our pasts, our burdens, the things we find difficult to face, and then process those things and let them go.  And for too many modern women, the beliefs which our culture has etched into our brains form the foundation for so much of what we should be releasing and moving on from.

A Feminist Tarot: The Sun

Where the Wheel of Fortune was luck, the Sun is good fortune.  Where the Star spoke of long-term success in the future, the Sun is short-term success today.  When I talked about the Tower and those moments of revelatory devastation leading to motivational clarity, the Sun is the day before that moment when everything seemed great.

The Sun is optimism and a feeling of being shiny and new.  Optimism is great, and renewal is important, but too often our culture sells women the benefits of sparkling optimism while it sells men the advantages of achievement.  We’re told that if we aren’t happy with what we have, then we simply aren’t fully believing in ourselves and we’re holding ourselves back.  It’s a really nice way of blaming us for a system built on a deck stacked against us.

But as I said when I posted about The Fool, we live in a culture which encourages us to always chase the new beginning, the great adventure, the birth of a new self.  The unrelenting optimist doesn’t see danger or destruction.  The chaser of new journeys doesn’t stay in one place long enough to experience the reality of where they are.  Constant pursuit of a new self never allows the celebration of the old self.  And when we give in to the push to live in a world of sunny thoughts and constant movement away from reality and toward a bright new day, we buy into the notion that we are never good enough as we are and that the disappointing existence we know can only be escaped but never changed.

When we believe that, we give up our power.

Perhaps I Should Wear a Warning Label

Ironically, of all the big revelations I’ve made to people about who I am and what I believe, my atheism is the one thing which strikes people as dangerous and detrimental. And I know it’s not unusual.  I know I’m not alone in that.  Atheism scares people. The roots of religion in the modern world run extremely deep.

It’s as if modern humanity is only now rediscovering that it’s possible to live without believing in a god.

In some ways, ironic as it is, it’s not surprising at all.  The predominant understanding of the history of mankind is that as soon as we properly existed as humans, we worshiped something.  The fact that research doesn’t back up the teachings of early missionary anthropologists doesn’t make its way into popular culture, so we’ve been fed a story of natural human spirituality and religion for centuries.

And if we believe that we’ve always worshiped a higher power, that this belief in a god is natural and ancient and simply a fact of our existence, it’s in some ways not hard to see how a dramatic break from that can be seen as a threat.  We threaten the presumed natural order of things.  Our existence challenges the very beliefs which underpin cultures worldwide.  If humans have always believed in a higher power, then what are we?

To be fair, atheists really do threaten the status quo.  The simple fact that many people question whether atheists have a sense of morality paints a stark picture of how deeply ingrained the idea that religion is natural to human existence really is.  We stand in counterpoint to ideas which have been used to create and shape and enforce societal standards for centuries, for good or bad.  So in that sense, I suppose we can be pretty scary.

Still, it’s pretty ironic that, held up against all the atrocities committed throughout history in the name of religion, the mere lack of belief in a deity would strike so many as so dangerous.

Has anyone ever told you that your beliefs were dangerous?

 

A Feminist Tarot: The Moon

From a feminist perspective, this card provokes a rather defensive reaction from me.  After all, it’s this idea of the irrational, moody, emotional female which has been used to restrict and oppress women over the course of centuries.  The image of the uncontrollable insane genius is considered fascinating in men, dangerous in women.

This card speaks to every quality which has been used over history to paint women as unstable, uncontrollable, untrustworthy, and tragically dangerous.

But history also shows us the value in reclaiming such negative stereotypes and twisting them to strength.  And this card, like emotions and visions and things not rational, isn’t any more negative than it is positive.  Because the problem isn’t that these qualities are bad in women and good in men, the problem is that they are PERCEIVED to be bad in women and good in men.

What Can You Give?

My spiritual life in the last several years has been a very private one, which has been a conscious decision.  I may talk about it in circles like this one where I can generally assume that if you stay to hear me you’re interested in what I have to say.  I have no desire to go around trying to convince people to follow my path.

However, there’s a big difference between proselytizing and contributing.  Surely, if a spiritual path is worth anything at all, it will call on those walking those footsteps to do something positive for others on and off the path.  And, it would follow, that the more solitary the spiritual journey, the more important it would be to contribute of oneself in ways that reach beyond spiritual practice.

In my own spiritual life, I choose to take this as a call to not just strive to improve myself, but to strive to improve what I can of the world around me.  This opens possibilities far beyond the feeding of the hungry and comforting the hurting.  This stretches into a search for opportunities to teach, to assist, to generally make myself useful when I can to efforts which I feel are beneficial to the world.

What does your spiritual path ask you to give to the world around you?

A Feminist Tarot: The Star

This is one of those beautiful but esoteric depictions in the tarot deck, and one which further uses feminine imagery in a way which no longer really speaks to us as women. But the meaning of the card is important and extremely relevant to feminism as a movement:

Good things are on the way, in the future, if you continue to work towards them.

Especially in times like this when the fight is constant and progress is often hard to come by, the reassurance that there is help and success somewhere on the road ahead if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other is both needed and unappreciated.

What it mostly brings to mind for me is the time I spent marathon training.  I’d never been an athlete, much less a runner, and I’d honestly not been much of one for following recommended systems and programs.  But as a personal quest to prove to myself that I could choose such discipline and finish something I started, I began running.

Progress was hard to see at times.  The process was long.  My workouts were difficult.  I didn’t always meet goals or complete everything on my training schedule.  I had to give up social engagements because of training obligations.  I doubted whether I’d finish in the allotted time.  I got sunburns and blisters and muscle cramps and terrible chafing.

But I also had days when suddenly the struggle gave way to surprising success.  I did things I didn’t think I was capable of.  Hard things got easier.  And eventually, I crossed the finish line and got my medal.  And I got there because I just kept focusing on the future and the possibility of success.

This fight is long and probably won’t be completed in our lifetimes, but history – like this card – tells us that if we keep pushing we’ll get somewhere better than where we are now.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

There’s an interesting thing about wisdom.  It’s fairly universally assumed to come with age.  We look to our forebears to tell us what they’ve learned through their lives so that we don’t make the same mistakes they did, and we expect those younger than us to respect our opinions on account of our age and experience.

This forms the basis for most of our religions and spiritual practices.  We have more respect for older traditions and consider them to contain great wisdom.

The weird part of all this, though, is that the very mechanism assumed to impart this wisdom is the experience of change.  We realize that those older than us have been where we are and lived far past, that they’re different now than they were at our age, and that those changes have taught them things.

But then we completely disregard the changes which have imparted a far different kind of wisdom on the young.

If I were to be given the choice of seeking wisdom from either someone from the past or someone from the future, I would speak to the person from the future.  They will have experienced a reality built on the experiences of generations beyond myself, and that kind of wisdom would be earthshattering to us now.  The past?  While I’m sure there are many ideas and nuggets of wisdom which have escaped documentation and fallen away from collective memory, the most important lessons and wisdom of the past forms the foundation upon which our reality is built.  We have it already, if we choose to access it.  Not all of it is particularly relevant anymore.

As we get older, though, we actually have access to future wisdom all around us.  The younger generations grow up in a different reality than we did, one built on our own widsom.  And yet too many of us are too quick to dismiss them.  We expect that they will grow to understand reality just as we do, disregarding that that has never consistently been the case before.

And the change which makes each subsequent generation’s reality different changes the environment in which our spiritual lives occur as well.  Shouldn’t we put a little more value on the insight of the young?