Earth Voices, Lunar Rhythms

TarotTuesdayBannerToday I want to share with you one of my all time favorite decks – super special to me – the deck that lead me to one of my all time favorite tarot-type practices. It’s technically not a tarot, but an oracle deck. I found it at a garage sale waaaaaaay back when I lived in Portland, and I’d never seen anything like it. It’s called Earth Voices, “heard” by Beridha and “energetically hand scribed” by Jacqueline Rene (Otter by Terra Green) – clearly a lovingly and communally-crafted small-run, small-eco-press deck that magically found its way to my little hands one summer when I really needed a new friend.

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Each card offers an imaginal meditation on a natural element, animal, or rhythm.

EVWaterfallI was so taken by these cards’ simplicity and complexity and power and calming presence that they became my monthly cycle deck – every moon I would draw a card and reflect on it, orient towards it, let it prepare me for the lessons of the coming cycle and reflect on the lessons of the cycle drawing to a close – and how they related to one another.

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Unknown Image of Yemaya from the internets – if you know the artist or attribution, please let us know! ❤

Over time, this created a beautiful kind of continuity in my inner world that, in my outer world, I drew incredible strength from. Lunar cycles are a rhythm we humans know deeply, and one that naturally synchs up with our personal rhythms of body, mood, fertility, sexuality, growth, decay, and lessons of transformation. I let this rhythm guide my introduction to these cards, so that it took years for me to meet all of them, but I have a very loving and familiar relationship with each one. I can still recall certain moons of my life that brought particularly intense lessons by their Earth Voices card – oh,  Snakes July-ish of 2008, I remember you well.

EVSnakesRegardless of whether you are a person who bleeds with the moon, I would encourage you to explore a practice of monthly draws – a chance to integrate lessons of the month, get in tune with the moon and her seasons, and begin to record these meditations in words and images that you can reflect on and weave together as time moves on. We are so oriented in the dominant culture towards action – doing, making, judging, achieving, proving, yang, solar consciousness, whatever you want to call it – and this attitude often creeps into even our daily devotional practices or daily draws, preparing us for the action of the day. A lunar practice of chill meditative reflection is soothing and deepening and brings its own magical rewards.

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The gorgeous and adorable work of Emmy Cicierega.

Maybe there’s a particular deck that speaks to you on this level, encourages you to get dreamy or connected to the more-than-human world?

Now, for the really magical part. Wouldn’t you like to play with these lovely Gaian spirituality cards yourself?I have looked and looked for Earth Voices online, and never found a thing. It was always a beautiful mystery that I fantasized belonged to some sort of woodsy Oregonian hippie tribe, who somehow missed the internet. Today, I thought, well I’ll just try again, for the blog – and low and behold, I found what’s obviously an oldish website, but complete with the Earth Voices cards all laid out for you to use too! There’s even a few new cards (!!!!) that exist in this virtual form and were never included in my deck! How freaking exciting is this!! Click here or the image below to see and play with them for yourself…

EVspreadDo you have ideas for what a lunar practice might entail for you? How might you create a space once a month that helps you chill, relax and reflect? Some questions to begin with might be one or more of these: “What am I letting bleed away from me? What do I no longer need to house within me? What lesson do I need to be attending to? What do I choose to nourish and grow within me? Who are my allies in this cycle? Where does the more-than-human world support me now? What do I have to learn from the more-than-human world? Where can I go in nature to find restoration and renewal?”

PS: The upcoming Pisces new moon on the Spring Equinox would be a great time to begin!

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Kaeti is a therapist, teacher, and dreamer based in Long Beach, California. All of her work (and play!) is interested in dismantling intersections of oppression and breathing magic and radical healing into all the daily corners of her life, into all the spaces of community she helps weave.

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There are photographs in this post that were borrowed lovingly from the internet and do not belong to us. All are linked and credited to the best of our abilities in hopes of attracting more traffic to the photographers and websites who have blessed us with this imagery. The inclusion of a photograph here should not be interpreted as an assertion of the subject’s or artist’s identity or beliefs. If there is a photo included here that belongs to you and you want it removed, please email compassionaterevolt@gmail.com and it will be removed promptly, no questions asked.

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A Little Tarot Magic for Compassionate Commitment

TarotTuesdayBannerLet’s do a little magic.

Today I want to explore how tarot can be brought in to deepen an existing daily practice that you have – little rituals, affirmations, meditation time, yoga time, whatever you got going on. Some folks talk about this as a daily draw, but I’m curious today about bringing tarot into a conversation or practice that already exists. Sometimes daily draws all by themselves get a little unfocused, repetitive and, well, boring for me. I like to incorporate tarot into whatever else I’m up to because it helps me have some structure in understanding the card’s message, and keeps me learning from the cards in fresh ways.

So what I’m up to today is #womenshistorywomensmagic – a little ritual I found at the blog of the incomparable tarot reader, priestess, and magic-maker Yeshe Rabbit. Go check it out for a good read and the details of the practice – in essence, though, here’s how it goes (from the source):

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Print out a picture of the Earth as seen from space. This is a nice one, and so is this.

Also place a photo of yourself on the altar.

Every day in March, stand in front of your altar for a few minutes each morning or evening.

Looking at the photo of yourself, say out loud, “I have compassion for you, and I commit to you, Self.”

Then think about all of the women you know who are struggling to do their best, to make change, to take good care of those they love, to create art and beauty, to invent, innovate, revise and iterate, and generate a deep sense of compassion and respect for them all.  Say out loud, “I have compassion for you, and I commit to you, Women.”

Finally, look at the photo of the Earth, and envision all that needs to be done to heal her…the waters, the air, the land, the animals. Say out loud, “I have compassion for you, and I commit to you, Mother Earth.”

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I’m feeling this today, on each level. A lot of my personal work lately is spiraling around my compassionate commitment to myself and what that really looks like in practice – it raises a lot of questions! I also wrestle with what compassionate commitment to women looks like in practice, as I in the past week I’ve witnessed gnarly strains of misogyny and transmisogyny creeping into spaces in which I really want to feel safe, and in which I’m not sure how to find voice to fight back, or how much of a shared space to claim as my own in that fight. It’s so difficult when these things catch us off guard in our own homes, families, and communities – and yet, shouldn’t these be the places where we are best and most lovingly able to have conversations about it?

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How Misogyny Shows Up In the Queer Community by Anna Bongoivanni – an awesome lil comic

And on the Earth Mama level, especially difficult questions are arising about compassionate commitment. It’s like everywhere I look, folks are looking the other way from glaringly painful realities around how we pollute and poison our world. It’s like a constant grief, just below the surface. Yesterday at the beach, just walking in the sun after the gorgeous storm system rolled through, a dying seal washed up on shore. A small group of bystanders gathered around to prod and take pictures of him. We alerted the closest authorities, and they said they’d take care of it, but it’s clear not much was to be done. Maybe this was just a normal thing, but in the context of hundreds and hundreds of mysterious sea lion rescues and deaths  in the last month off our coast, that seems unlikely.

Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks – so this little ritual caught me at a good time, and helps me reorient toward exploring the possibility that I do have some power, I can make choices that reflect my caring and commitment. It may seem ridiculously small in the face of such big questions and concerns – but to me, it’s super helpful to get out from under the overwhelm of such bigness and get back into reflection about my own thoughts and feelings about these things.

I’m a big believer in the power of small, local change and action in relationship with others doing the same work.

What does it mean for me to be in right relationship to these forces in my own small way?

That is a great question for tarot.

So here’s how that looks for me, this morning. Let’s go in reverse order, starting where we are with the big Earth Mama stuff and working back out to Self. The Motherpeace Tarot deck feels like a good choice.

Guidance for my compassionate commitment to Mother Earth: 5 of Wands.

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Join the struggle. Here is where the fight is. Don’t be afraid to be angry – but don’t be afraid to use that force creatively, to let off pressure often rather than all at once. There is a way to engage this struggle that sustains and supports us through the conflict. It will take many points of view, many tools and perspectives and voices and actions. This is a shared endeavor, and requires sharing power. Commitment to caring for Earth Mama requires change, discomfort, challenge – it is not easy.

 Guidance for my compassionate commitment to women: 3 of Disks.

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Remember that this is a work in progress, and that we are working together. The model here is not a fight but re/building. See how walls and boundaries house us and keep us safe. Windows help us breathe, see, modulate and communicate. None of us can do it alone. Come not from the fire of anger but the earth of steady purpose and patient labor.

Guidance for my compassionate commitment to Self: 7 of Cups

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Continue to be with your dreams, and value in the inner spaces of imagination and vision. But be mindful of your choices, and how your visions, desires and idealism sometimes cloud your sense of reality. Use the weave of the net to strain what is useful and discern what is not. Remember your ground in the tidal work between worlds.

Each card helps deepen the affirmation, orients me, and creates a touchstone image for me to carry with me throughout my day and outward interactions. Super helpful for me. And as I do these affirmations over the course of the month, I’ll weave a rich relationship with each image that will inform my work with them in the future. I love tarot magic!

And obviously this is just an example. You could do a draw to support any daily affirmation, morning or evening ritual, meditation focus, yoga or other practice intention…you get the idea. Enjoy your tarot explorations!

Kaeti is a therapist, teacher, and dreamer based in Long Beach, California. All of her work (and play!) is interested in dismantling intersections of oppression and breathing magic and radical healing into all the daily corners of her life, into all the spaces of community she helps weave.

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There are photographs in this post that were borrowed lovingly from the internet and do not belong to us. All are linked and credited to the best of our abilities in hopes of attracting more traffic to the photographers and websites who have blessed us with this imagery. The inclusion of a photograph here should not be interpreted as an assertion of the subject’s or artist’s identity or beliefs. If there is a photo included here that belongs to you and you want it removed, please email compassionaterevolt@gmail.com and it will be removed promptly, no questions asked.

Love Song to the 9 of Pentacles: The Secret Garden

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The 9 of Pentacles is one of my favorite cards. Every time it comes up, the sweetest blend of ease and delight and groundedness nestles into my heart. Just look at her here:

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Rider Waite Smith’s 9 of Pentacles

Sweetly golden light. A secret garden of plenty. The walls themselves alive with growth, not entrapping but enriching – I imagine, providing safety and respite, a little queendom with everything I need. Solitude without isolation – the little bird of the soul flies freely within and without, bringing and sending news. The little snail slides over the earth, at its own pace, doing its thing, welcome too in its way. Sunset or sunrise, a time of taking stock and resting in one’s own intention, settling into one’s place, remembering connection with self and with world.

But a little bird says: how do we square this with the fact that 9s represent thresholds? A dear friend of mine likes to refer to the “crisis of the 9” – 9 as a gate, a challenge, a test…indeed, a crisis. There is no gate, no challenge here – is there?

Some answer to that question lies in the fact that this is card I drew on the day of my first big MFT exam last week – and immediately I felt the power of knowing I had everything I need to pass, but also the whispering challenge of this card and the secret of its test.

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The Wild Unknown’s 9 of Disks. Really, this is the card I drew on exam day – the wealth I have accrued and earned in my labors, nestled safely in soft feathers and here for me as I need it.

Another answer to that question lies in the song I played on repeat on my way to the exam, and which now seems to hold a special resonance with this card and its strange confluence of safety and crisis: My Brightest Diamond’s Dreaming Awake. Take a moment to take in this wonder:

What is the slowing-down place that keeps its voice against challenge?

What is the slowing-down place that keeps its heart amidst panic?

What is the slowing-down place that dreams while awake?

Now that I  sit with it, I feel like these questions have been in my life and my practice all week.

How do we keep to our principles and integrity and still participate in the awful world?

How do we hold on to ourselves in the face of unrelenting panic attacks and terror?

How do I stay in my power and the sacredness of my healing work while taking a grueling 4 hour exam that dissects and belittles me, my community, my work?

I keep thinking of the image of the cops invading the sacred space of that secret garden in the video. Suddenly, this card appears to me as a meditation, visual mantra, or energetic ally for those times when an intrusive and punishing force invades and threatens to sever connection to ourselves or our world. This could be the oppressive dynamics that hit us hard when we step out of the safety of our queer households and into the dominant overculture. This could be you, being in a dreamy and open and soft space and suddenly having to interact with someone angry and punishing, or overwhelmed with sensory input in a loud and busy place. This could be taking a walk on the beach to connect with nature and seeing all the trash, the oil wells, the giant ships packed with slave-labor goods, the polluted waters. This could be you minding your own business and suddenly having a flashback or panic attack, your mind spinning out of control.

Any of these scenarios offer the opportunity to learn to find your core…to breathe…to practice the delicate art of staying present in the face of pain…to slow down and draw strength from your secret garden, to remember the way back to yourself, to remember that you have a grounded and connected self to come back to at all.

All this is the crisis of the 9 of Pentacles, which teaches about the place where sacred and profane overlap.

I always used to think of this card as a garden, but now I see it more as an economy – a sacred or gift economy, oeconomy in the old sense of “the management of a household.” Indeed, some of the traditional meanings for this card include good luck, good management, inheritance, attention to detail, loving criticism, integrity and skill producing wealth, the flow of gain – all of which you might also glean from its astrological correspondence of Venus in Virgo.

Sacred or Gift Economy to me holds a connotation of flow, of giving with the understanding that the gift is always moving, that giving and receiving are parts of the same act and hold reciprocal value. This card is wealth without hoarding, sharing without shame. There is an understanding that while we may sometimes need to retreat and build fortresses to make it through the short-term, there is ultimately no extra safety in cutting off or hoarding or silencing: we must find our flow, and participate in the flow of which we are only a part – the tidal flow of community, of life force, of love and loss, in and out.

Last night, in the novel I’m reading, a girl assassin whispers these magic words in the language of her lost homeland and, in doing so, slays an immortal tyrant whose domination has oppressed everyone it touched for centuries:

The life that is shared goes on forever. The life that is hoarded never lives at all.

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The Collective Tarot’s 9 of Bones

I see this in the Collective Tarot’s 9 of Bones too: the strong spine that connects heaven and earth. The fruits which fall between the worlds and which a clever forager collects in baskets and ride off to share with their community. How rootedness and connectedness and circulation are all part of the same phenomenon.

One of the first times these kinds of lessons started to occur to me was in 9th grade biology class, when I first heard the term semi-permeable membrane. I know, I’ve always been a nerd at heart. But the image and the idea collided in me with tremendous power, because deep inside I knew that this was a teaching image for me: there exists a thing whose function is to both protect its innards and allow flow between inner and outer. A boundary which protects but is also porous – which intrinsically knows what to let in and what to keep out, keeping fluid all the while. Like in a cell, or in an egg. I can breathe in and out, but you can’t invade and poison me.

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Ladies and germs: I give you, Science!

I see the walls in the 9 of Pentacles like this. For me, it’s a powerful metaphor for how to stay safe and connected to my heart without retreating, charging, melting down or dissociating. Sometimes those things have to happen, too – and when they do, the image of the safe and secret garden gives gentle guidance back to my abundant self, helps me reground and get ready for the next round.

One last image of this card that I love:

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Motherpeace Tarot’s 9 of Disks

Here, I see an image of this lesson after many revolutions and evolutions of practice. A vision of gardens within gardens, wisdom and strength to find one’s place – in any place – and be in dialogue with the many worlds, the endless overlaps of body and mind, spirit and soul, wishes and fears, inner and outer, different parts of ourselves, different languages, different  communities. Out of this wisdom, a system of communication and reflection. A time-tested reliance on boundaries –  knowing that while boundaries are built and are relative, they nonetheless provide the safety and containment to open up and experience and learn and commune.

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Kaeti is a therapist, teacher, and dreamer based in Long Beach, California. All of her work (and play!) is interested in dismantling intersections of oppression and breathing magic and radical healing into all the daily corners of her life, into all the spaces of community she helps weave.

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There are photographs in this post that were borrowed lovingly from the internet and do not belong to us. All are linked and credited to the best of our abilities in hopes of attracting more traffic to the photographers and websites who have blessed us with this imagery. The inclusion of a photograph here should not be interpreted as an assertion of the subject’s or artist’s identity or beliefs. If there is a photo included here that belongs to you and you want it removed, please email compassionaterevolt@gmail.com and it will be removed promptly, no questions asked.

On Armor, Self-Creation, and Accessing Our Inner Worlds

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Part of the great power and mystery of dreaming is that, in dreams, you find yourself in relationship with the rest of you: who you are when you’re not performing your daytime, waking-world persona; who you wish you could be, or hope you’re not. In dreams we can come into contact with disowned and discarded elements and aspects of ourselves – as well as new, emergent parts of us that we’ve never met yet. Dreams also present us with the forgotten or repressed facts of our living connections to each other – and to the animals and plants we share the living world with, to our shared histories and futures, to dreaming Gaia Herself.

Dreamwork creates reflective time for us to be with these mysteries and unfold ourselves into new awareness about ourselves and our world.

Dreams ask us to take an attitude to them that can be very uncomfortable. Waking, we are always discerning the boundaries of our conscious identity: this is me, that’s not me, that’s has nothing to do with me. Dreams ask us to become more porous and curious in our thinking, and become concerned not with what something is or isn’t but with how we relate to it (and how it relates to us).

Dreamwork asks us to practice a faith in our deeper selves by honoring that whatever comes up to the surface – the dream itself, our reactions to it, our associations to it – has its reason, has something to do with us, even if we don’t know how to recognize it yet.

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Art by Geninne: blogdelanine.blogspot.com

This can be a powerful release and relief, for the conscious mind to accept that it’s not in control of everything that goes on inside us, nor does it have to be.

This can also be a balancing practice for many of us whose minds have had very good reason to become protective and stay in control.

Every day, we are bombarded by images, values, policies, and judgments that don’t represent us and that do us harm. In the dominant racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist and capitalist culture, strength and survival can mean adopting an attitude of crafting and defining and valuing our identities on our own terms. That attitude of revolutionary self-creation serves us well in the waking world – but, when it becomes a habitual armor, it can cut us off from the deeper dreaming wellspring of ourselves, our connections to one another, our healing, and our inner guidance.

Our roots go so much deeper down...
Our roots go so much deeper down…

This is not even to really get into how the same dominant culture in general cuts us off from our inner selves, and teaches us not to ask questions, not to draw connections, not to identify empathically with an other. These thought patterns belong to this culture and its legacies of violence, and it’s impossible not to internalize them to some degree. For those (most!) of us who inhabit marginalized identities and have to work hard to claim our value, this can be a double-whammy of a cut-off.

If you find yourself saying things about your dreams like, “That was meaningless,” “That was a stupid dream,” “I wish I could just forget that dream,” “That has nothing to do with me,” or “Phew! Woke up and escaped, now I never have to think about that again!” – then the armor of your waking mind is protecting you from something in your own inner world that wants your attention.

Here’s a small way to begin practicing a balancing attitude in your dreamwork:

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  1. Make a quiet space for yourself – half an hour on the couch, some quiet tea time curled up on your bed, a blanket in the park, a walk on the beach, whatever you got to work with.
  1. Actively imagine yourself taking off a piece of armor and setting in on the ground beside you. A helmet or a chest-plate would do nicely. Tell yourself something like I am taking off my armor in order to be with myself, or In this quiet space, I am free to relax and get curious, or even just I am safe here or I come in peace. Take a breath and feel your body adjust to this attitude.
  1. Get your dream journal and either write down a fresh dream or turn to one you wrote down fairly recently. Pick one element of it that challenges, confuses, or bewilders you and name it, write it down.
  1. Give yourself permission to free associate – this means that, without having to understand or interpret anything, you get to brainstorm any and all images, feelings, or memories that come up as you contemplate your chosen dream element. Associations can be very personal but they don’t have to be – they can be old stories, characters from tv shows, current events in other parts of the world, etc. Let it all just blurt into your journal – notice if you feel hesitation or embarrassment, but remember that you are safe here, no one will see but you, and your only job is to take note of what comes up.
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Dream journalling gets wild… Art by Christian Schloe.
  1. Reflect on what you’ve journalled – allow yourself to ask questions without needing to answer them right away. The point here is to practice being curious and holding the possibility that you are connected to the images and feelings that came to you.
  1. Pick a few elements of your associations to remember and carry with you during your day – not as a problem to solve, but as something to carry lightly in your mind. As you go about your day, notice when events or feelings arise that remind you of your dream elements. Meaning or insight may or may not come to you in this process, and that’s fine – the point is to practice staying in connection to the inner world, and noticing when something in the waking world resonates with your inner dreaming world.
  1. Thank yourself for making time to connect with your own dream life!

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Want to learn more? Check out my Dreamwork for Survivors course, coming this Spring with Califia Collective!

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Kaeti is a therapist, teacher, and dreamer based in Long Beach, California. All of her work (and play!) is interested in dismantling intersections of oppression and breathing magic and radical healing into all the daily corners of her life, into all the spaces of community she helps weave.

The Flow of Creativity: 3 of Stones

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I’ve been drawing today’s card a lot lately (twice this week!) – and it has me kind of loving the Wildwood Tarot’s take on the three of pentacles:

3 of Stones

3 of stones

A traditional take on this card would have us thinking about work – specifically collective work, work that joins you to your community or is a harmonizing effort of all the parts of yourself. But I think that emphasis tends to get redirected in our cultural focus on work as linear, directed, goal-oriented, productive, and commodified – our thinking that work is about what you produce, and its value, and how that defines your value. This particularly trips us up, I think, when we feel the lack of creativity in our lives. I often hear people say “I’m just not creative,” “I miss being creative,” I need to be more creative,” and they tend to be talking about making things. Making artistic things, maybe, but making things nonetheless. Producing.

The 3 of Stones offers a different view: work as process. Work as connection to being. Work as being grounded. Work as being in the flow – the flow of the earth, the flow of intuition, the flow of inspiration. The flow that roots in its own place – and gives energy back to its own place, becomes part of the ecosystem. The flow that communes with what cannot be seen. The 3 of Stones reminds us that all of these process are themselves creative, and part of what it means to be creative.

I love that this card challenges us to just get into our flow, whatever that looks like today – whether giving or receiving, connecting to nature, dancing with intuition and ideas, taking care of our physical needs, meditating, connecting to source, drawing strength or inspiration up from our roots – and say: “I’m being creative.”

Because a dimension of “work” is recognizing or attending to the ways energy flows through us, connecting us in partnership with the living and more-than-human world around us. Our deep connectivity is a font of creativity. How does your work change when you send roots down into this place? What dimensions of creativity open up to you when you see this image?

Kaeti is a therapist, teacher, and dreamer based in Long Beach, California. All of her work (and play!) is interested in dismantling intersections of oppression and breathing magic and radical healing into all the daily corners of her life, into all the spaces of community she helps weave.

A Dream Considered Through Personal, Collective, and Gaian Lenses

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Today, I’d like to take an old dream of mine as an example for one of my favorite ways of working with dreams. I don’t have a catchy name for this tool, and maybe it’s more of a philosophy than a tool, but I think it’s incredibly helpful.

Lots of folks talk about dreams as working on multiple levels. Jungians are maybe best known for this, and they break the levels down in various ways. The language that feels simplest, cleanest, and most useful to me is to think of dreams as working on 3 different levels: Personal, Collective, and Gaian.

Personal: this probably already makes sense to you. There are dreams that easily slide into this microscope, and you can gleam all kinds of information about yourself, your psyche, your history, your evolution…you get the idea.

Looking through the microscopic personal lens...a beautiful hidden world!
Looking through the microscopic personal lens…a beautiful hidden world!

Collective: this probably also makes sense to you somehow. On this level, we might talk about archetypal dreams, ancestral dreams, prophetic dreams, shared dreams, dreams where you receive specific information about something other or bigger than you, dreams that touch experiences that you share with many other people, and dreams where you are part of a larger drama.

The mind boggles.
The mind boggles.

Gaian: this may be where you’re cocking your eyebrow at me, because we don’t have much language about this in the dominant culture. This is the level where we acknowledge that humans are not the only carriers of consciousness, and that we are only a small part of the dreaming world. Dreams can be a field of communication with other phenomena – places, weather, animals, and the ways we all embody the larger organism which is Gaia. Dreams can be a place where we connect to the immense suffering of the world, and engage in the important work of grieving and creating new relationships with the Gaian world. If you’d like to read more about this, I refer you to the striking work of healer Deena Metzger.

Click here to access Deena Metzger's powerful essay Living By Dream, in the inaugural issue of Dark Matter: Women Witnessing
Click here to access Deena Metzger’s powerful essay Living By Dream, in the inaugural issue of Dark Matter: Women Witnessing

It’s important to note that these levels are not “kinds of dreams.” Personal, Collective, and Gaian are stances we can take toward any dream; they are attitudes and approaches. We can hold a dream and turn it carefully over, looking through each lens, one at a time, allowing the dream to express its multidimensional fullness. They help us to practice a multivalent awareness and to grow our understanding that meaning happens on many levels, in many ways, from many perspectives, all woven together. It is never just one or the other.

Here is a dream that came to me in Spring of 2010:

A dark, underground sewer. A woman has been floating down, and now emerges from, the muddy stream. She is brilliant red, glowing, bloody and screaming in agony because she has no skin, she is skinless. She will grow a new skin.

I first considered this dream personally. I thought about all the change and transformation I was undergoing, having been “in the shit” of my own healing for a while at this point. I thought about how painful this process can be, how in the disorientation of deep, healing change it can feel like you’ve lost your skin – feeling everything, feeling too much, having lost the old filters and barriers that helped you deal with all the shit you’ve been swimming in for so long. I thought about the brilliant red and the fact that the figure is emerging from the sludge, ready to grow a new skin, and I felt hopeful about my own emergence and new growth, even if it was still underground.

Imagine my surprise when, a few days later, I was looking through my collage-fodder picture books and stumbled across this image:

From the Splendor Solis
From the Splendor Solis

It was the very picture of my dream! – only above ground, instead of below. This is the kind of thing that happens on the collective level. Like tuning into a frequency or tapping into a current, our sensitive psyches light up with stories and images that have been around for ages and ages of human experience.

This is an alchemical painting, and, to add to the synchronicity, a few days later I went to school where our evening training that session was in Alchemy. I spoke to the professor briefly about this experience, and she encouraged me to deepen my exploration of it as a collective dream. She saw in it a powerful image of the raw Feminine, so sensitive and so mistreated in our dominant American culture, violently expressing Her rage and pain – and calling me to help in the work of re-growing Her skin. I was being reminded that even in doing my personal healing, in re-growing my own embodied sensitivity and containing selfhood, I was helping anchor the same kind of renewal on the collective level. I am just one place where this re-emerging Feminine is happening in my culture.

Whatever we mean by “the Feminine,” it is something that has as much to do with what we call “the natural world” as it does with human women. Both women’s bodies and the earth itself have been subject to the same kinds of objectified exploitation. Understanding this figure as an expression of the Feminine is a way to expand even further, out into the Gaian stance. From this perspective, we can see the skinless woman’s screams as the pain and rage of Gaia, the living earth, engulfed in human sewage. I had this dream during the period of the BP Oil Spill, as I was becoming interested in ecopsychology and other methods of including the more-than-human world in healing work.

OilSpillBird

This dream was a major message for me that as I grow into a new relationship with my self, and with whatever the Feminine is in our culture, that necessarily includes my relationship with the more-than-human world of interconnected life that I now refer to as Gaian.

Of course, this is only scratching the surface of this dream and its story. But my hope is that this shows you how powerful just a single dream image can be, and how richly it unfolds when considered using different lenses. I love how each not only enlivens the dream’s message, but each layer creates new texture for the others, creating multiple points of access and meaning that deeply inform one another. I hope this becomes a useful tool for you in exploring the beautiful multiplicity of your own dream life.

Sweet dreams,

Kaeti

Kaeti is a therapist, teacher, and dreamer based in Long Beach, California. All of her work (and play!) is interested in dismantling intersections of oppression and breathing magic and radical healing into all the daily corners of her life, into all the spaces of community she helps weave.

4 Directions Spread: Cosmic Snapshot Part 1

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Happy Tuesday y’all – did you know we welcome submissions to Tarot Tuesday?

A reader wrote in, “I don’t really know how to interpret a directional spread,” but she’s playing with it – and she included a photo of a beautiful full moon spread she did while camping in the Cascadian forests.

4 Direction spreads have been my bread and butter for years – I love their flexibility and use them way more than the other common small spread, PPF or “past, present, future.”

(PS, “Spread” is what us tarot folk call the particular design guiding the cards’ layout after you draw them. It’s like laying out a feast. What a spread!)

Here’s what I love about the 4 Direction spread: It creates a little cosmos, giving you lots of room to explore aspects of relationships. That little cosmos is both circular and linear. Take a look:

Reader-Submitted "4 Directions Spread," using the Marseilles Tarot deck
Reader-Submitted “4 Directions Spread,” using the Marseilles Tarot deck

You see the circle clearly – the wheel created as your attention moves around the perimeter of the spread. It moves in both directions.

The linear is in the axes it sets up – I find myself using the word “axis” a lot when I read cards. These are the axles, the load-bearing places of support between cards: they give strength, seal connection, channel energy, and create oppositional movement.

Taken together, the two form an ancient and deeply archetypal symbol that has as many interpretations as we could throw at it, and then some.

The wheel and axes; also, the alchemical symbol for Earth.
The wheel and axes; also, the alchemical symbol for Earth.

Sometimes I’ll put a card in the center: a hub. This spread doesn’t have one. That’s okay. That’s part of the flexibility of this spread, and I often don’t include a central card when I’m just asking for a general picture of things (cosmic snapshot). Or, I’ll do the spread and then pull a card for the center about how to deal with all the lessons the outer cards have presented. To ground me as I move back into the mundane world. Anyway, this spread clearly has some beautiful ritual & magic going on in the center and that will have its own power in this reading for Our Dear Reader.

Some positions have more than one card: that’s cool too. Sometimes you need a little extra for certain positions – you have a question, it sparks another question, or you just don’t know what to do with the first card (the wtf factor). I am a big fan of just drawing another clarification card, even if you’re not sure why yet.

Another thing I love about this spread is that it is deeply orienting. Imagine me, or you, the querent, or the issue in the center – and then the spread encourages us to ground into that center, and then to take a minute to look in each direction, and then to really be with what’s there. Before I start playing with axes, I go around the circle and be with the card/s in each position. It has the effect of making a place, giving some ground from which to consider whatever the issue is, and understanding that issue not as a thing but as an ecosystem.

One kind of ecosystem. Clickthrough for some ecosystem basics :)
One kind of ecosystem. Clickthrough for some ecosystem basics 🙂

Part of sitting with each direction will include bringing your associations and meanings for each direction to bear on that image. This kind of practice (associations with directions) shows up in a lot of cultures, and we tend to take it for granted (especially in pagan communities) as something that belongs to us, just something we do. One of the places it comes from is Medicine Wheel, which belongs very specifically to various indigenous American tribal traditions. This is not something we can just take wholesale and plop into: East means this, West means this, according to the Great Indian Shaman, case closed. Especially for those of us practicing on this land, I feel very strongly that awareness of this history and our capacity to participate in its legacy of violence via cultural appropriation is a part of right relationship. Many Western pagan traditions do have their own sets of directional correspondence: great – use what works for you. But if you’re copying lists of meanings from (books about) indigenous cultures to whom you do not belong and with whom you have no relationship outside of your consumption of them, this paragraph is especially for you.

And so this is not to say we can’t practice directional spreads, or some form of Medicine Wheel meditation. It is to remember the importance of doing our own work, and to remember that personal spiritual practices are part of the web of collective life and history. To remember that the 4 directions are not lists of meanings but experiences of aspects of the ecosystem we live in.

That said, you probably have a blend of associations and meanings that belong to the different directions for you – a mix of personal experiences, things you’ve read, practices you’ve studied, and sheer intuition. I can’t encourage you enough to start practicing bringing your awareness to the different directions, and thus building your own library of associations to those directions for you. Maybe you regularly encounter a certain animal, or color, or goddess, or feeling when attuning to a direction: these are associations full of potential exploration.

Our dear reader, chillin' in the East with Kwan Yin at Sekhmet Temple, creating new associations to her personal East <3
Our Dear Reader, chillin’ in the East with Kwan Yin at Sekhmet Temple, creating new associations to her personal East ❤

Bringing them to bear on a spread might look like: “The East is where the sun rises, a place of light and hope and restoration and newness. I associate it with qualities of Air, and stillness, thoughtful practice, and a refreshed heart. How might the Page of Wands embody those qualities, or what would she have to say about them?” Look how, in the actual spread, she even faces the East, and perhaps the coming dawn. I might close my eyes and connect with the East, visualize a landscape or setting there, and then allow the Page of Wands to wander on stage. What happens next?

Or: “The West is where the sun sets – where the darkness grows, the home of night, the gateway to dreams. I associate it with qualities of Water, especially ocean, because I live on the west coast; also I link it with change, and moving between worlds.” Look at how, in the spread itself, the two queens in the West regard each other; what kind of tone does their interaction have for you? How might this go down in the wild West I described? What kinds of power are at play?

Then, I might think about the axis. This horizontal axis I often associate with time. The West may reflect what is passing away from the present, where the sun is setting, what has come before – while the East reflects what is on the horizon.

It may also reflect different choices or influences: on the one hand, on the other, a kind of weighing. It may speak to fears (the growing darkness of West) and hopes (the rising sun of East). It may talk about where your emotions are at (the Watery West) vs. what your head is doing (the Airy East). Western Moon speaks with Eastern Sun?

You can see how deep a spread like this can go. And we haven’t even really gotten into more magical directional correspondances, or specific meanings of cards outside our immediate reactions to them. We haven’t even touched the cards of the vertical axis, or gone around the wheel. I’m telling you, 4 positions + your central attention is all you need to explore your mini cosmos, to get a snapshot of your psychic ecosystem.

Another "4 Directions" spread, using The Collective Tarot deck - and another way to trace relationships in a reading!
Another “4 Directions” spread, using The Collective Tarot deck – and another way to trace relationships in a reading!

Clearly we could go on (and on) with this one, but that’s about all the time and space we have for today. Next week we will look at the vertical axis, and dig a little deeper into this particular spread. I hope this little intro has sparked some ideas and excitement about using this spread for you though! I know Our Dear Reader who submitted this lovely query would enjoy any of your thoughts, for anyone who wants to jump into the comments and practice interpreting, or share their 4 directions stories. I encourage you to send in other questions, spreads, or ideas for us to play with too!

Be well!

Kaeti

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Kaeti is a therapist, teacher, and dreamer based in Long Beach, California. All of her work (and play!) is interested in dismantling intersections of oppression and breathing magic and radical healing into all the daily corners of her life, into all the spaces of community she helps weave.