19 June 2017 3 comments

Tarot Conversations: All the Pleasure, None of the Guilt

For the month of June, the Tarot Rebels Blog Hop subject is "Guilty Pleasures," but it occurred to me that regardless of how I try to twist the perspective, guilt is one thing that --for me at least -- doesn't enter into the equation anywhere.

So let's go with indulgences, maybe? Frivolities which serve no real logical or rational purpose. One could argue that there aren't many of these either, that the trappings in which we indulge are part of the atmosphere, the ambiance, the process that deepens our connection with the tools, tapping into our subconscious.

Mary-el tarot, blue silk scarf wrap.

In the course of the past six months or so, I starting focusing on how I house my decks. The reading cloths in which I fold my cards contribute to the sensory experience and immersion, creating a tactile trigger for the subconscious engagement. I doubt I'll ever grope velvet or silk with quite the same emotive response in the future; all of my decks have homes that incorporate one or the other, if not both.

That enriching of the sensory spectrum of engagement for the reading experience is certainly an indulgence. Far from a necessity, it is simply my active means of heightening the immersion, of creating an intuitive trigger beyond the imagery of the cards and the information I've studied and stored in my brain. In an effort to expand that sensory engagement in a pattern of reinforcing behaviors, I created a witch hazel base blend of essential oils and herbs which I use exclusively for shadow work, as those sessions tend to last an hour or more and take place on days when I'm not required to engage in other activities before it wears off.

Green silk, black velvet: Trionfi della Luna.

What drives this? Well, it's an offshoot of a lesson I learned about writing techniques for audience engagement and reader immersion. The more senses incorporated into a descriptive sequence, the more engaged the reader becomes, the richer the experience is for them. Hit all five and you're likely to overwhelm them, but if the scene is one of significant emotional intensity, that might not be a bad thing, right? The same is true, after all, for our memories -- those associated with specific aromas or smells are more intense, more readily recalled when the odor is encountered in the future. The perfume of honeysuckle, the robust aroma of a field of fresh-cut alfalfa, clean linens dried on the clothes line in the summer sun.

I blame it partly on too many psychology courses, but understanding how my mind works certainly goes a long way to optimizing my own progress and performance, to controlling and programming how my intuitive subconscious engages, responds, or switches on and off. I'll admit I try to employ some of those same techniques while writing. It certainly doesn't hurt to be a consciously manipulative artist, after all.

Wildwood tarot, old blue silk scarf in a wooden box.

And anyway, what's the point in feeling guilty for a choice you've made, regardless of how self indulgent it may seem from someone else's perspective? Their opinions have nothing at all to do with you and everything to do with them. Guilt has no place in any of it, nor does regret. We each do the best we can with what we have, where we are. Nothing more is required. Nothing more can be done. Discover yourself. Know  yourself. Use that knowledge to further your path to your goals and dreams, to the journey along your chosen spiritual path. And fuck what the naysayers think.

Click through the link below to visit the other blogs participating in June's hop.

15 May 2017 2 comments

Tarot Conversations: #ibelieveintarot

Trionfi Della Luna, daily spread.

Belief systems are usually instilled foundationally from a very young age. Mine certainly were. It took me a great deal of time and willpower to buck them, to find something I wanted to believe in, to figure out just what I believed as opposed to what I'd been told to, programmed to, and brainwashed to believe.

These days, I like to think I have a solid foundational structure to what I believe, but there's a great deal overlaying that, and it's really subject to change with little to no notice whatsoever. I like to renovate. I like to try out new ideas and concepts before I disregard them entirely. Sometimes they're too similar to the constructs I razed in my twenties for me to even be remotely interested in them.

When it comes to tarot, for me it's about exploring my precognitive tendencies, my divinatory abilities, and opening up the creative outlets and process. I keep anything akin to religious derivative out of my interpretive symbolism, especially that of any modern structured religion.

I began with a JJSwiss Marseille deck, and though my tarot journey has led me along a scenic, pleasant path through a variety of other tarot systems, I find myself coming back again and again to the origin, as I see it. It is my beginning, my point of reference, my pole star.

Even if that deck was condescending as fuck-all and hated my guts, to start with. "You're not listening to what I'm saying so I'm not gonna fucking talk to you anymore," was the general attitude-vibe I got from it. Perhaps I simply picked up on my own insecurities. I've come a long way since those early readings, which I still have somewhere.

I believe that, like most things in life, you get out what you put into tarot. I put a great deal of effort into creating a foundation of understanding and knowledge upon which to build my own personal system of interpretive beliefs. We all read differently, thank fuck. Otherwise there wouldn't be so many gorgeous, vibrant decks to choose from. And the world would be a truly lackluster and boring place, and life would suck balls.

I believe tarot is what you make of it. It can be a channel for evil, if that's what you truly believe it is, and you believe evil is actually a thing (which I don't, haha). Or it can be a channel for positive spiritual growth, if that's how you choose to perceive it. Much as self-fulfilling prophecies, and so much of what comes and goes in our lives, perception is reality. For my first twenty years, I let others dictate what that reality entailed. For the past twenty, I've taken an active role in those parameters, and I like the cottage I've built as a result. It's quite spacious inside. Lots of room for new ideas, exploration, and learning new things. Quite certain there are entire universes hiding in the pantry under the stairs, and probably behind those other doors down the hall as well.

This post is part of the Tarot Rebels Blog Hop. See the other bloggers participating in May's discussion, #ibelieveintarot, by following the link below.

23 April 2017 0 comments

Tarot Conversations: Love-Hate-Loathe Entirely

The Dark Arcana tarot playing cards.

Aprils' Tarot Rebels Blog Hop is about the Make Or Break cards in a deck.

The volatile relationships we have with archetypes are what shapes our intuitive responses to the imagery we experience in the tarot deck.
For me, there have always been a few cards that have the power to make me totally fall in love with a deck -- or completely kill any chance of me being able to work with it. They're also the archetypes I struggle with most in my personal life and spiritual journey.

The Emperor is the first. It's a card of Fire, of harsh rulership, of intellect and logical detachment. While those are theoretically aspects to which I relate well internally, it's the external that I have difficulty relating. And so the attitude, body language, and presentation of this dominant persona is crucial. It's like putting my finger against the thrumming pulse of the deck as it tightens its fist. This is its hard side, and if presented too traditionally or conventionally, I won't connect at all. The Dark Arcana Emperor looks like he's winking; he's not sitting on a throne, either, which I really enjoy. There's more emotional engagement, more active involvement, to his rulership.

The Strength card is the biggest touch-and-go for me, yet another Fire aspect. While the general rule of interpretation sets this card as an aspect of civility over brutality in the human nature, I've always seen something entirely different in this conventional imagery of a woman oppressing a lion -- that of man dominating nature, of dictators brainwashing the masses with propaganda, softening the minds to bend to their will in small baby steps. I see the mature elephant chained with the same chain they couldn't break as a child, who hasn't bothered to challenge the confines of their enslavement. I see the wild, untamed spirit, broken and bent and its beauty dulled.
This is always the first card I look to, before I acquire a deck. I look for a symbiotic Strength card, not of dominance or oppression, but of balance and interdependence, of coexisting in mutual respect.

And ah, last but not least, the Earth aspect of the Devil. The very title itself is steeped in the religious influence of tarot's history. Traditionally a Christianized bastardization of Lilith and Baphomet, it's intended to convey all that religion perceives as "evil" and "shunned" that seeks to lead us "astray" ... the weakness of the flesh. I dislike these renditions, and steer far away from them, but that is not to say I abhor Baphomet imagery in the decks when done with respect for the origins and intent of the differing religious/spiritual path. The Devil is a card of intellectual passions taken too far. To me it is the hobby or interest that grows to consume all your resources, be it time, money, or energy. It is the unhealthy imbalance of no longer being in control, but being controlled. The body and its urges override the intellect and self awareness. I love that the Dark Arcana depicts Baphomet, who teaches their followers to embrace and experience that which they fear and shun so that it no longer has power over them, in a relaxed pose as though overseeing, engaging their acolytes in a valuable teaching moment. The only flaw in the imagery is Baphomet's rendering as other than intersexual, which is slightly disappointing.

The energies of these three major arcana cards describes, for me, the nuances and flavor of any tarot deck. They alone can sway my intuitive response for or against an artist's work. They truly hold sway over whether or not I'll be able to engage with and relate to a deck.

Check out the other bloggers participating in this month's Tarot Rebels Blog Hop by following the link below.

11 March 2017 4 comments

Energy, Focus, & Positivity: As I Will, So I Make It Be

Deviant Moon extras, taking a walk on the wild side.
This month's Tarot Rebels Blog Hop topic is about reading tarot card reversals, and why I choose not to employ reversals in my practice.

And yes, it is directly related to my philosophies of magic-working and pagan belief system.
Not that I adhere to a specific system of singular construction. I'm an eclectic, a spiritualist of indeterminate path. But the fact remains that I've spent much of my adult life hypersensitive to the energies of others. I adhere to the belief that attitude, outlook, intent, and focus have as much influence on events, choices, and those around us as the gravity holding us to terra firma. I expend a great deal of effort maintaining a deliberate focus on the positive aspects that can be found in any given situation, and the positive options and advantages that I can find for both myself and others.

I approach tarot reading with this same frame of mind. In such a perspective, there's no place for reversed cards implying blockage, lacks, or negativity. Instead, when I look at a spread I see the landscape of its entirety, and take into account the interplay of adjacent energies in interpretations. I see myriad potential forces at play, vortices ripe for manipulation toward positive momentums and outcomes.

Dreams of Gaia, daily reading.

In one sense, it's a bit like using "english" on a cue ball to set yourself up for the next shot. The backwards spin on the cue ball would make it travel the opposite direction from where you want it to go, initially. But it doesn't keep the ball from successfully impacting the desired target. Once that has happened, the momentum is "released" to influence the ball's speed and travel.

What might be seen then as negative energies, aren't viewed as such in my mind. I am simply aware of the potential, or the existence of the urge, and when the timing is optimal for entertaining those energies and letting them guide me, I release them to do so. This approach has a good bit to do with shadow work, self awareness and acceptance, and self actualization. In order to realize one's full potential, one must embrace all the aspects and urges of the self and recognize them. Weaknesses can become strengths if the situation and circumstances are correct. There is nothing bad or evil in any of us, those "demons" are just simply misunderstood. I don't require upside down cards in my tarot deck to recognize and acknowledge those shadow energies. That's what my shadow work is for... and even then, all the cards remain upright.

Check out the rest of the bloggers discussing this topic through the link below.
TRBP: Reading Reversals

24 February 2017 0 comments

Piaffe: The Movements

The pirouette, or dancing in circles.

Capriole on the lines.
Forging Piaffe's world on the page for the reader is crucial to the immersion, suspension of disbelief. One of the greatest challenges for me as the writer fell in the realm of the insigni, specifically their warfare tactics and strategies.

Once upon a time, before tanks, mounted cavalry units were the single most intimidating force on the battlefield. A well trained steed could scatter infantry with a kick, and was a force to be reckoned with -- wielding hooves, teeth, and its greater weight against adversaries at its rider's behest.

Capriole under saddle in action.
The remnants of those techniques are preserved in the militaristic discipline with which horsemanship is taught to both equine and human pupils at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria.

For those who aren't familiar with classical dressage, describing a horse's movements with terms more complex than jog or gallop may prove challenging. So when portraying a capriole, for instance, how exactly does one proceed? It is a rear, a leap, a kick, but to witness them performed in flawless transition is to realize the power and force behind the act, and realize that it is so much more.

The Lipizzaners, as a breed and a legacy, are certainly a sight to behold. But when one takes into consideration the fact that each stallion only trains under one rider, and together that rider/horse team practices each and every day, and that these complex haute ecole movements demand musculature, physique, and intellect that few horses could dare attain in their lifetimes... suddenly their efforts and performance take on a new meaning, and the observer has a greater appreciation for what it takes to do that seemingly innocuous and quick leap-kick. It is not enough for the horse to understand what the rider wants and execute it, he must have the strength to do so with power and control, without hurting himself.

Thus it is with the insigni. They are large and powerful, more so than a horse, and yet at the same time they cannot simply throw themselves into movements without proper athletic regimens and training, not without injuring themselves or endangering the wellbeing of those around them. It is the same with any professional athlete, it is the same with any military personnel. It is, after all, a running joke among enlisted ranks that the most dangerous individual on the battlefield, or the training field, is a lieutenant with a compass.

There is precious little media circulating on the internet that I can share that is actually the Spanish Riding School pupils. If you go looking, be wary of any shots that have the horses performing in show rings, or names that flaunt "Lipizzans" without mentioning the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria. Look for the brown coats, the sideways hats, and the beige and white wall of the arena in Vienna.

Pesade under saddle in action.
Levade under saddle.
For ease of reference, I've included definitions of the various movements below. These are sourced from Wikipedia's article "Airs Above The Ground", but most classical dressage manuals will provide similar, if not identical, information. All sketched images are done by Ludwig Koch, and have been sourced from Lipizzaner: A Story of the Horses of Lipica, by Dr. Milan Dolenc, of which I own a copy (I took pictures of the sketches for you, using my mobile device).

The levade from the piaffe.
  • Pesade & Levade: 

"The pesade and levade are the first airs taught to the High School horse, and it is from these that all other airs are taught. In the pesade, the horse raises its forehand off the ground and tucks the forelegs evenly, carrying all weight on the hindquarters, to form a 45 degree angle with the ground.

"The levade was first taught at the beginning of the 20th century, asking the horse to hold a position approximately 30-35 degrees from the ground. Unlike the pesade, which is more of a test of balance, the decreased angle makes the levade an extremely strenuous position to hold, and requires a greater effort from the horse."

the courbette and the croupade

  • Croupade & Courbette:

In the croupade, the horse jumps from a raised position of the forehand (levade) straight up into the air, keeps the hind legs tucked tightly under, and remains parallel to the ground. This movement is a prerequisite to more difficult movements, the first step.

"In the courbette, the horse raises its forehand off the ground, tucks up forelegs evenly, and then jumps forward, never allowing the forelegs to touch down, in a series of "hops"."

the ballotade

  • Ballatode:
In the ballatode, the horse's hind hooves are positioned so one can see its shoes if watching from behind, but the horse is not asked to kick out. When the horse demonstrates proficiency in the ballotade, the capriole is introduced.
**There is actually an error in PIAFFE, on pg 133 line 5 of the paperback or the bottom of page 62 in the PDF version, where "ballatode" should read "courbette" instead.** 

the capriole

  • Capriole:

"In the capriole (meaning leap of a goat), the horse jumps from a raised position of the forehand (levade) straight up into the air, kicks out with the hind legs, and lands more or less on all four legs at the same time. It requires an enormously powerful horse to perform correctly, and is considered the most difficult of all the airs above the ground."

23 February 2017 0 comments

Piaffe: The Cast

As promised, picspam! Sorted roughly by order of appearance (except for Traken down there at the bottom), here's the rest of the cast of characters in Piaffe. Some of them don't have much page time. Others have a much larger role than what is seen or claimed in this volume of the series.

I had fun exploring these first two, because Neolus and Erryn are two of my favorite supporting characters. We'll see more of them. Can I say that without it being spoilery? I really like them. Willoughby, who plays Neolus, is of Ojibway from Whitesand First Nation and Jamaican descent. Thuy is a Vietnamese model.

Also worth mentioning is that Jherrfaulken Torrente character about halfway down. He doesn't actually get page space, but he kind of steals it. And his presence and influence loom a bit. He never really had a face, until I stumbled on a photo shoot a while back, and then I couldn't see him as anyone else. I'm sure he won't mind. Everyone wants to be named after the biggest, baddest falcon, right? He does a fine job of making shaggy look chic.
22 February 2017 0 comments

Piaffe: The Sacred Groves

The Sacred Manda Grove
It was in drafting a spiritual system for Piaffe's world that trees became a major player. I didn't want there to be religious structure, per se, but I did want to create a measure of spirituality in the form of respect for the planet and all its inhabitants. A sharing of resources and space.

Filtered Sunlight
Because their language system is heavily Latinus influenced, I opted to transform Gaia into Ommat, literally "all things are," from om mat, which means "mother of all." She began not so much a specific goddess entity as she is a communion with nature. The sacred groves were space set aside for rites in which the dead were returned to the earth, the final embrace.

I was in the throes of working these details back into the story, trolling the internet for images of what these groves might look like. How old were they? What kind of trees were mandas, beyond being old, dense, and dark? That was when my longtime friend Amara hit me up. She was working on a shiny, and she wasn't sure if the stones worked so well together. She was debating scrapping the combination entirely and beginning again. Artist to artist, I sympathized with her pain.

"Send me a pic of what it looks like," I told her. "I'll tell you if it works or not."

21 February 2017 0 comments

Piaffe: The Insigni

Once upon a time, tanks could dance.
One of my favorite parts of creating the world in Piaffe revolved around the insigni. I'll admit that my inspiration was born in Vienna, Austria at the Spanish Riding School where, at the age of five, I had the pleasure of straddling the back of a Lipizzaner mare. She was huge. Enormous. Fluid.

Exploring the abilities of the mundane horse, the years of training required to perform complex maneuvers which the Spanish Riding School teaches, and extrapolating the possibilities of combining those with a sharp intellect and an aware mind, led to the evolution of the equine soldier.

Forging that image in the reader's mind was a bit of a challenge. I see their towering presence in my head, but how could I convey it? I could see them moving in my head, but how does one describe it?

20 February 2017 0 comments

Piaffe is loose in the world.

I've been working on this story for longer than I'd like to admit. It's been written, rewritten, revised, thoroughly overhauled, and rewritten again after sitting for a good long while. If it were a bottle of whiskey or bourbon, it'd be worth a pretty penny at this point.

It's not... but I hope it kicks like one.
This fantasy world is one that's been with me for so long that I've had to include a glossary of terms to anchor readers because it becomes a struggle to remember, in the throes of writing, what is known and what has simply become ingrained in the fiber of my being and flows through my veins.

So I'd like to do a little post introducing you to this not-Earth, where Gaia is called Ommat, the All-Mother, the sacred trees have veins of crystal, and the humans aren't the only recognized sapient species that contributes to the foundation of society and culture.
07 February 2017 4 comments

Dreams unwind

(L to R) Mary-el, Lumina, and Deviant Moon tarots.

Love's a state of mind. "This is the story of an old Welsh witch." Do you know that song?

In the society and time from which tarot originated (to our best estimations), arranged marriages were a norm. Marriage was a contract for political or financial gain. Lovers were an expense, a luxury, a potential weakness for exploitation, an opportunity to further one's interest, garner favor, and increase power.

The Lovers is a card associated with the element of air. I also associate this card with Gemini, the Twins, as well as Yin and Yang. I see it as an allusion to balances of power between myself and others, about power plays and relationships and connections, none of them necessarily romantic or sexual. This card speaks to me of othila and ehwaz, of group souls, and links between people -- the ancestral connection, the collective unconscious.