The Gift of the Tower

The Tower

Click here for an audio version of this post.

Nobody is ever very thrilled to experience Tower moments. These are those times when lightning strikes: you lose your job, or you find out that your spouse wants a divorce, or you experience a seemingly sudden health crisis, or the stock market crashes and there goes your retirement fund. Basically, these are those occasions when things not only don’t work out, but they explode catastrophically and you find yourself thinking, “well, at least things can’t get any worse!” It feels like more than a loss. It feels like devastation is raining down everywhere. It feels like the end of the world.

The Tower moment, though it may shatter us, is a gift. All that energy that was stuck? Blam! Now there is flow. And here comes new energy, here comes time for reflection and meditation, and here comes love and abundance--from an entirely unexpected direction.

The Tower moment, though it may shatter us, is a gift. All that energy that was stuck? Blam! Now there is flow. And here comes new energy, here comes time for reflection and meditation, and here comes love and abundance–from an entirely unexpected direction.

Now, you may vehemently disagree with what I’m about to say. But in nature, Tower moments are a gift. They are Earth’s way of bringing itself back into balance. The lightning that strikes a tree and starts a forest fire burns dead trees and decaying underbrush, returning important nutrients to the forest soil and making it possible for more sunlight to reach the lower levels of the forest. Scientists report that young growth forests that have been through fires have greater species diversity, because remnants of burned trees provide homes and habitats for birds and small mammals–and small animals are prey for larger ones. Of course, not all the effects of forest fires are good–just ask the people who have had to evacuate their homes this year because of fires in Alaska and Washington and California. Sometimes, yes, fires do rage out of control, and sometimes the Tower moments in our lives do too. But in general, when you take the long view, forest fires do help to maintain the balance of a forest ecosystem. The same is true of a volcanic eruption: very destructive when it first happens, it often nourishes local ecosystems wonderfully over the long run.

In the human body, as well, negative medical symptoms are very often the result of things the body is doing to bring itself back into homeostasis, or balance. Spike a fever? Your body is trying to help white blood cells mature faster so they can go and fight infection so you can get better. Are you vomiting? Do you have diarrhea? You body has recognized that something toxic is in you and needs to be expelled.

Very often Tower moments in our lives are accomplishing something similar. The job you just lost may have been slowly poisoning you and sapping your will to live. The spouse who just filed for divorce probably was NOT the love of your life. (As Louis CK says, “Divorce is ALWAYS good news. No happy marriage has ever ended in divorce!”) That’s not to say that Tower moments don’t suck, because they totally do. But they are also huge wake-up calls. It’s as if a great wind rushed through your life and began sweeping away those things that you were ready to release and needed to release in order to focus on something else. The forest fire in your life is burning up the very things that were holding you back. I know you will say, “really, Bonnie? Was money holding me back? Because I had some and now it’s gone!” or “Were my kids holding me back? Because now they live with my ex and that sucks!” I understand all of that and you’re not wrong to say those things–obviously.

But. Nothing lasts forever, not even Tower moments. In fact, Tower changes quintessentially are sudden, fast changes–as fast as lightning.

If you think about it, you’ll see that this whole discussion is just one aspect of a very ancient debate, the one that goes like this: “if there is a God, why is there evil in the world? why do bad things happen?”

My answer is: when bad things happen, when your life turns to ashes, that’s when you have the opportunity to rise like a phoenix out of those ashes and fly. Which you would NEVER have done if your life had not turned to ashes in the first place.

The StarIn tarot, what comes after the Tower is the Star: hope, healing, peace, and renewal. The ashes of the Tower CAN and WILL nourish your soul. Those ashes will bring you wisdom, they will bring you compassion, and they will sure as shit force you to pick up some creativity and resourcefulness. Add a little faith to that mix and you will rise, phoenix, and fly again.

You know Mercury MIGHT be retrograde if…. (or, why we should appreciate Mercury retrograde!)

  • The Magician--Samurai Tarot

    The Magician–a tarot card that is often associated with the planet Mercury. From the Samurai Tarot.

    your Google Voice voicemail is somehow ending up in your cell phone’s voicemail account.

  • your child missed the school bus this morning because it unaccountably arrived several minutes early.
  • you have a sudden desire to declutter and organize! (If this happens to you, go with it. Declutter your heart out. Now is the time!)
  • you just found (because you’ve been cleaning, sorting, and decluttering, right?) a key that you lost two years ago and it still works.
  • you just found money in your pocket that you left there several months ago.
  • you just found an old Visa gift card and it still has money on it.
  • your computer is acting very weird.
  • your text messages are delayed by hours.
  • your power just went out, again.
  • your car just broke down.
  • you just sold the house you’ve been trying to sell since 2009.
  • you tried to log into a website (or several) that you should be able to log into with no problem, and are told that your email is unknown.
  • relationship issues from several months ago (like, during the last Mercury retrograde) have suddenly re-emerged.
  • your husband borrowed your bicycle and brought it back noticeably damaged, yet he says he only rode it across the street and definitely did not wipe out. (Communication or transportation issue, or both!)
  • tarot decks that you haven’t used in awhile are suddenly demanding reuse.
  • you stop by the jail to teach meditation and it turns out that two inmates are being released (another re- word), so class is more rambunctious than usual.
  • the kids are coming home with massive amounts of review homework.
  • the school talent show experiences insane levels of technical difficulties, causing the emcees to frequently have to come back on stage to request volunteer knock knock jokes from the audience to kill time.

    The Magician--Yoga Tarot

    The Magician, from the Yoga Tarot

  • you just sold an article based on idea that you originally thought of in 2008 (you found the notes about it when you started decluttering).
  • you have decided to spend the weekend on a retreat.
  • you really want some serious rest (hey, it starts with re-!)

See, there really is both good and bad connected with Mercury retrograde. Try to work with the review/organize/declutter-release/bring order out of chaos energy of this particular time. Consider that the issues from the past that come back up have done so for a reason. They have yet to be released, and now is a good time for that. And consider, as well, that you need space in order to manifest (like the Magician). Mercury retrograde is a marvelous time to clear room in your life for all sorts of wonderfulness.

Angels Watch Over Children and Fools: Why Faith is a Form of Protection Magic

The Fool

The Fool knows all will be well, even though resources are minimal and the path ahead is rocky and uphill. Maybe even BECAUSE resources are minimal and the path is rocky and uphill! Sometimes it works that way.

“Angels watch over children and fools.” Well, if that’s the case, then I figure I’m covered. I know that sounds like a joke, but there is actually some truth in it: faith protects. If you don’t believe me, just ask all the Christians who say they “let go and let God.” What happens when you “let go and let God (or the Goddess, or the gods and goddesses, or the multiverse)”? What happens when you decide to operate on what I like to call “universal GPS”?

The first thing that happens is that stress and anxiety drop. Not all of it, necessarily. It’s pretty hard to have that much faith. But it is true that the more faith you have, the more stress and anxiety drop out of your life. Scientifically speaking, that’s a form of protection right there: protection against the stress response, which can unquestionably destroy your health. It’s not only negative protection–protection against something bad happening–but it’s also positive protection, because faith activates the relaxation response, which acts positively to improve your health.

And if we’re talking about first chakra, root chakra issues, such as safety and security, health should be right up there at the top of the list.

But what about safety from predators? You think you’ve got me there, but you haven’t.

The Fool, shown here from Le Tarot des Femmes Erotiques and The Wild Unknown.

The Fool, shown here from Le Tarot des Femmes Erotiques and The Wild Unknown.

When it comes to predators, I’d like to invoke another couple of folk sayings that also contain more than a grain of truth: “Animals can smell fear,” and “never run from a predator.” Truth. Why? Predators prey on the weak. That’s true in nature, and it’s true in our human world. And your knowledge of your own weakness is one of the things predators look for during the targeting phase of planning an attack (yes, predators plan–they’re just that organized). If you act like you are afraid, they assume, probably rightly so, that you have reason to be. If you run (at least, if you let them see you running), you are saying, “you are more powerful than I am–I have no chance against you!” Your fear, in fact, puts you instantly on the radar of nearby predators. But what does faith do? It removes fear. And maybe you end up feeling like a fool who doesn’t have the common sense to be afraid–I know I have felt that way many times–but the fact is, your lack of fear, Fool, is the very thing keeping you safe. What do you think it says to a predator if you walk straight toward it and look it in the eye? That absolute confidence in your safety tells that predator that it would be wise to think twice before attacking you. Don’t believe me? Then watch this video of Maasai men stealing lunch from a pack of 15 wild (and hungry) lions. But remember: this principle applies, even when the predators are human.

Finally, let’s talk about economic insecurity. Can faith protect you even here? Yes. First let’s talk “law of attraction,” and then let’s talk science and psychology. On a “law of attraction” level, your faith changes your vibration, which makes you feel more confident in the idea that everything will be fine, and that very confidence attracts to you a world in which everything IS fine. Maybe you think that’s nonsense (but your thinking on that may change, if you make a sincere effort to try this). But let’s, again, look at some empirically verifiable realities. Logically speaking, to have economic security, you need certain things: food, a home, health care. Money helps with that stuff. Having a job, or at least regular work (if you are a freelancer or entrepreneur), helps. But to get a job, or to get customers or clients if you are an entrepreneur, you need confidence (aka faith). Otherwise you won’t even apply for that job. You won’t pitch that article. You won’t market your small business. You might not even do the work if you do get it. Or you’ll do the work, but won’t charge an appropriate amount for it. All because of lack of faith that any of this will even work out or lack of faith that your work is worth somebody paying you for it. I think this is what people mean when they refer to “fear of success.” It’s not so much actual fear of success–who would fear success, seriously?–it’s lack of faith. Getting work requires taking risks and taking risks absolutely requires faith. Follow my logic on this, and you’ll find that even if you are not religious, even if you’re not into “woo” or law of attraction or anything spiritual, even if you confine your analysis of how faith operates to the empirical world, I’m still right.

Faith protects. So try to find it in you to have some. 

Practical Tarot: What Cards Might Represent Waiting for a Bus?

In the newsletter she just sent out, Theresa Reed, the Tarot Lady, challenges us to pick a setting and think about what tarot cards would best illustrate it. So: challenge accepted! I pick: the bus stop! Because I spend a lot of time there.

Waiting for the bus! with the Two of Wands, The Hanged Man, and the Ace of Pentacles from the Steampunk Tarot.

Waiting for the bus! with the Two of Wands, The Hanged Man, and the Ace of Pentacles from the Steampunk Tarot.

I thought this tarotcise would be hard, but I quickly found the card I most associate with waiting for the bus: The Hanged Man. Why? First, because the Hanged Man is all about waiting. But also because the Hanged Man represents a change in perspective, and I feel that traveling by bus is a wonderful opportunity to expose oneself to many different perspectives–as many different perspectives as there are people who get on the bus or who walk past the bus stop. Simply standing at the bus stop invites us to consider the perspective of the Earth–something we so easily miss when traveling by car.

In the photo at right, I’ve flanked the Hanged Man with two other cards that say “waiting for the bus” to me: the Two of Wands (planning for the future, yes, but also gazing into the distance wondering when the bus will show up!) and the Ace of Pentacles (bus token or bus pass literally in hand!).

Riding the bus! With the Nine of Pentacles, Four of Cups, Two of Pentacles, and the Six of Swords, from the Steampunk Tarot.

Riding the bus! With the Nine of Pentacles, Four of Cups, Two of Pentacles, and the Six of Swords, from the Steampunk Tarot.

But I couldn’t stop there. I had to think about what cards represent riding the bus. While The Chariot can represent travel by car, I feel that the bus is more of a Six of Swords mode of travel. It seems to me that the crafts generally depicted on a Six of Swords card can hold more people than the Chariot could. I also connect the Four of Cups (boredom–I don’t get bored on the bus, but many people do) and the Two of Pentacles (multitasking!) with a bus ride. But most importantly, to me, the bus is a blessing that gives me independence and the ability to travel even though I don’t have a car right now–and to me, that’s a Nine of Pentacles moment.

What cards do you connect with riding the bus?

Does the Emperor Have Control Issues? Why I Hope There Is NO Emperor in Your Relationship

There is one tarot card that, as a feminist, I really hate to see in a relationship reading. If you come to me for a relationship reading, you might be thinking that the one card you don’t want to see is the Three of Swords, or perhaps the Devil. Granted, those aren’t fun cards to see. But the one that really gets my back up is the Emperor. The Emperor, Rider-Waite

Why? To me, the Emperor says, “I am in charge here.” And my response (I come from a long line of uppity women who DON’T like to be bossed around) is bound to be, “like hell you are!” Telling me what to do is at the top of my list of pet peeves: I won’t put up with it. And I will be sorely tempted to do the opposite of what you tell me to do even if I was previously planning to do the very thing you insisted should be done.

But that’s just my personal preference, so why does it irritate me to see the Emperor when I am reading cards about a client’s relationship?

The truth is–gulp!–that I have a little of the Emperor in me. More and more so as I get older. I don’t want anyone to tell me what to do, but I definitely think I should be granted a little obedience when I tell YOU not to let anyone tell you what to do. Are you sensing a little irony here? a little hypocrisy? Look, I come by it naturally. My mother was a principal and then a superintendent, and is the queen of bossing people around. My brother and I call her “Little PawPaw,” after my grandfather, who was in the military and really excelled at giving orders. Moreover, as my uncle tells me, there are any number of ancestors I can channel if I want to start ordering people around.

But the truth is, even if I am being a hypocrite, you should listen to me on this. Let me be a healthy Emperor in warning you about this issue! When the Emperor card turns up, it often can mean that there are control issues going on in a relationship. Upright, it can mean that the person in question feels in control, which is fine. But it can also suggest–depending on the context–that one person in the relationship views the other as someone who should be under his or her control–as someone who should step in line and follow marching orders. And that, to me, is so uncool. You can’t control another person, and you shouldn’t. Or perhaps I should say, you shouldn’t control another person, and even if you tried, you couldn’t. If you try, your attempts at control are likely to become a source of conflict and dismay. It will undermine the relationship at its very foundations. 

What if the Emperor turns up reversed? Well, that brings up other interesting control issues. Does someone in the relationship feel out of control? If your lover (or hoped-for lover) is moving more slowly than you’d like, sometimes the reversed Emperor can suggest that he or she is feeling out of control–like the relationship is controlling him or her rather than the other way around. This individual might be sorely in need of asserting his or her own individuality by taking responsibility for himself or herself. Because honestly, even if you think you don’t mind being under another person’s control, it’s wise to be aware that if the balance of power shifts in favor of one person in a relationship, that skews the entire relationship. Suddenly, you’re no longer equals. Are you not bothered by that? How about this? Suddenly, you’re living in different worlds. Once you start living in different worlds, don’t you think that your connection to each other will be disrupted? And then you’re taking steps away from intimacy and commitment, not toward them. 

Don’t get me wrong. Control is not a bad thing–when it’s self-control, or when you are ruling your world Sakyong Mipham style. If control refers to your own sense of discipline in choosing what path you want to walk and sticking with it–that’s awesome. That’s a healthy Emperor in healthy balance. But as a woman living in a world in which control issues in a relationship often become unhealthy, it often makes my stomach clench when I see the Emperor pop up in a reading. That’s all I’m saying. And the truth is, that when the Emperor gets out of control and becomes a fascist dictator, that’s when the Emperor just may turn into the Devil. That’s when the relationship may stop feeling so loving and sweet and instead start to feel like a trap or a prison. And in some cases, those control issues lead to abuse (check out The Duluth Model’s power and control wheel for a whole education on this topic!)

One last comment: the Emperor isn’t just a concern for women. Men, take note: every now and then, that woman who seemed so meek and mild at first can turn into General Sherman and slash and burn her way to a divorce if her control issues get out of control. That’s why it’s in everyone’s benefit, no matter what your gender, to address control issues in a relationship before it is too late. The best way to do that? Respect your partner’s autonomy and independence, starting NOW. Maybe you do indeed know better than your partner does. Maybe you are smarter, wiser, older, or see something your partner does not see. You can express your opinions about these matters, but you cannot and should not demand obedience from a sovereign adult.

Got it? Thank you!!!

Cards for the Day Survey

When I first began this blog, I used to publish two cards for the day here. Later, I stopped putting cards for the day here and instead posted one card for the day on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. But I don’t really know that a card or cards for the day are of any use to you readers in either location. Do you want to see cards for the day from me? If so, would you rather see them here on the Tarot Salve website, or in a social media location (and if so, which one)? While I’m at it: what time of the day would you prefer to see cards for the day? If you have a preference, please comment below. Thanks.