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Welcome to Soundings! The blogsite of Caitlín Matthews.

Exploring Myth, Divination and the Western Mysteries.

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Saturday, 18 January 2020

WALKING THE ANCESTRAL ROAD: Healing Family Lines by Caitlín Matthews

‘I felt the presence of an ancestor…I asked him what he had to teach me and he replied, ‘I’ve not come to teach you. You came all the way to this country to do what you could do at home, with your own ancestors, symbolsand heritage…. Look to your own roots.’  - David Wendl-Berry: The Womb Tomb
Door of St Ebbs in Oxford
FINDING THE ANCESTOR DOOR

The Ancestors are closer to us than we think: they are not about us doing lots of family research and genealogy, nor about getting our DNA tested. We do not need to know them personally, nor do we need to know their names before we encounter them. They are much closer to us, contactable and responsive to us, a collective of wisdom that can flow to us.  As David Wendl-Berry discovered for himself, we are often misled into thinking that ancestors are only for indigenous people or in far-away places: if we look where we are we will find that our own heritage and wisdom waits for us too!

Most of my work has been with the ancestors over the last 40 years, and most of this has had oral exposition in our FÍOS shamanic training programme and in other courses, but not yet in many books. Initially, I found the ancestral road very hard to walk because I felt I was opening a door that had been shut for a long time. In my searchings and discoverings, I was aware that this door-opening was not just for myself but for many others: my family, my students, my readers all needed this wisdom.  The problems that all Western people face when attempting to open that ancestor door were also mine: concern about the detritus, grief, and betrayal that clogged the threshold of the door, fear of what I might find, and a darkness devoid of joy which I had inherited from those who had closed the door in the first place.  As soon as I realized that these things were not about the ancestors themselves but rather about our loss of the ancestral wisdom, things changed. The accumulation of stuff littering the threshold of the ancestor door had to be cleared away and then, I went in – what on earth was I doing, taking so long to run into the welcome that I found there?

 In writing the Ancestral Oracle of the Celts, I hoped to share some of these discoveries, so that people might begin to find their own way through the door. The idea for the Ancestral Oracle of the Celtsfirst came back in the late 1980s when we began teaching our shamanic training programme, then a four-part year-long course: in each season, we would meditate and interact with the common ancestors that represented the gifts of the tribe. These archetypes became the 32 Clan cards in this oracle, the cards that are upright portrait cards, each showing an individual function, emblem and keyword. Along with these come the 8 Divine Ancestor cards who represent the Deep Ancestors, who are the forebears of us all: these are landscape cards, representing the horizon that is common to us all.

This 40 card oracle deck is based upon individual ancestral qualities and may be used by anyone, whatever their background. The cards depict characters, from the youthful to the elderly, who reveal the 32 Clan Cards showing the functions of the tribe, as well as the 8 Deep Ancestors who hold the unchanging wisdom. It can be used as an oracle, or for meditation, but as well as for ancestral ceremonies to help support yourself, your family or your friends.  Each of the 32 Clan Cards can be read upright or reversed and give oracles, but the Deep Ancestors are only read upright and they ask questions just as an elder would ask us. Here is a Clan Card and a Deep Ancestor Card :

The Keeper
THE KEEPER remembers the ancient ways of the tribe and knows the relationships and family-ties back for generations. Her great memory is sustained by her attunement to the web of the life, which keeps all things in relationship.   
Upright:  Everything has its own innate wisdom. Despite the effort you’ve put in, things behave according to their nature.  The resonances that you feel between your question and your instinctive knowing are leading you steadily to the truth.  Do not be afraid to name that truth now.  Don’t forget to thank those who have enabled you to get this far.
Reversed:  The lessons that life has been dealing out to you must be assimilated or you will run into them again and again.  What habits or patterns do you need to change in order to be a wisdom-holder rather than a victim of events?  Lay these to rest or the struggle between you and them will only resume at a later time.
Emblem: web     Keyword: remember 
Family Wisdom:  I am the rememberer of the forgotten ways that make the path full of joy.


THE LORD OF LIGHT helps us see with clear vision, enabling us to be strong and resourceful.   
General/Attitude: For what are you most grateful?  Which resources can you use most skilfully?
Work/Creativity:  How do you honourably serve through your work? What gifts do others receive from your creativity?
Health/Wellbeing:  What medicinal elements do you crave? What feeds your wellbeing?  
Love/Friendship:  How can you serve the common good?  Where do you need to get out of the way? 
Quality: Vision     
Family Gift: I impart the gift of skilful vision. Whatever the difficulty, you can always find solutions when  you shine my light upon the issue.

All of the cards have their own wisdom and guidance, and you can lay one to many cards to answer questions or seek help, but here I want to reveal the way in which the cards can be really helpful for making reconnections, supporting and guiding through simple rituals that enable the ancestral strength to flow down into our lives today. 

WALKING THE ANCESTRAL ROAD

For many people, ancestral connection is something that is avoided as their minds are full of recent forebears who have treated them badly, but this avoidance also cuts us off from wisdom that it is our heritage. The sensible thing is to step beyond the recent sphere of hurt and go back deeper into your line, to enable healing and help to come down to you. You don’t need to know or identify anyone in that line – you just work with the ancestors who step forward. These can be from a long time back,  beyond the reach of memory. Allowing this movement backwards actually enables the road forward in a way that is remarkable, but don’t just take my word for it.
Hadrian's Wall Path                                                        
If there has been break-down between you and one branch or person in the family, it’s important to go back beyond the break, to common ancestors who bridge the gap with wisdom, humour and love. While you may not feel warmly about the relative in question, you nonetheless have forebears who did have the qualities that you need now, and who still discern you and your struggles with loving support. You can also look at your relationship with one person and with a family line.  Choose at least one Divine Ancestor card to stand for the strength that flows down to you, even though that relative was unable to make you aware of that. Then lay out a few cards to represent the strength that you feel comes to you from those unknown forebears who act as a bridge. 

It is good to lay the cards on the ground and to stand up, approaching each card as if that ancestor stood there and have a sense of what is conveyed to you, taking your time, closing your eyes and feeling with each cell of your body and atom of your consciousness how you and your ancestral heritage can be with you. By physically allowing your body to be a receptor, you begin to walk the ancestral road for yourself.

                                                             Maternal & Paternal Lines 

Above we see two lines: the top one is for the mother’s line and the bottom one for the father’s line.
Here, Mandy has chosen the cards to represent her parents and their lines: she did not have a close relationship with either parent, but feels the need of a more powerful sense of support for herself at a difficult time. Her mother was very young when she fell pregnant with Mandy, who was brought up by a much older sister, while her father was a young musician who only briefly met his daughter a few times.  Having chosen these cards, Mandy lays them upon the ground and stands at the beginning of the line, next to her mother, slowly walking back the generations, picking up each card as she goes and holding it to her chest, sensing her maternal forebears, feeling what each of them conveys to her.  She lays the Mother, the Weaver and the Keeper as her cards.  From a sense of abandonment, she finds foremothers who welcome her with delight. Finally, she comes to the Deep Ancestor at the end of the line, from whom she experiences a great deal of power.  In her father’s line, she encounters forefathers who have a better sense of responsibility than her dad ever demonstrated, and she connects strongly with them; she is astounded to feel just how wise they are and that part of her heritage is wound up with a creative expression and dedication.  The sense of loving care and strong support grow in her from this time.   

BRINGING BACK THE BLESSING

The cards adapt well to rituals of prayer and healing. Sometimes there is an individual or a group whom you wish to specially bless: a person or family may be undergoing hard times, illness, difficulty, heartbreak at this time. Witnessing to someone and holding them in your heart is a prayer that everyone can make. Place a candle for the individual or group at the centre and any emblem that feels appropriate – it could be just a stone.  Then, randomly or purposely, choose Divine Ancestors and Clan Cards to form a circle of support and blessing for them.  Choose fewer cards if you wish, but no less than 4-5. Contemplate the cards you’ve placed to support that person or group.  What blessing do each of the ancestors give to the individual?  This is something you can speak aloud, as if you were speaking for the ancestor, using the wisdom that it given in the accompanying book for each card. So, if a chosen card was The Way Shower,then you might adapt the Family Wisdom sentence as if speaking to the person you’re blessing: ‘The Way Shower opens the ways beneath (the person’s name) feet and in (his/her) dreams.  Whenever (s/he) cannot find a way through, the Way Shower is there to help find an opening!’  Or you may find more appropriate words as a blessing that arise spontaneously. Be led by what is suitable for the person or group. Let each of the cards you’ve placed speak a blessing, while you clearly envisage the help and support of the ancestors unconditionally streaming towards the one you bless.  Leave out these cards on a table or floor for the rest of day to support the blessing.

                                  Blessing Ceremony for a Friend

In the example above, Brian, has laid out cards for his friend, Terry, who has been excluded from a group of which he has been a dedicated member for many years. His sense of betrayal is huge and he is very bitter. Brian lays four Divine Ancestors to support his friend: the Lord and Lady of Love, the Lord of Life, and the Lady of Lore: he also puts a bronze horse statue near the light, as Terry loves horses.  He randomly choses a few Clan cards to represent ancestors who support Terry: The Spinner, the Adultrach (Pictish for ‘second wife’), the Protector, the Hunter, the Tracker and the Healer.  Using the Family Wisdom sentences of each card, Brian speaks them for his friend; so, with the Spinner, he says, ‘Terry is faithful and innocent in the face of mistrust and suspicion: may envy and distrust be lifted from him!’  With the Lord of Life, he blesses his friend with, ‘May Terry receive the gift of a new beginning, the ability to step over the threshold into his true heritage.’

It is not our business to enquire whether a prayer or blessing has ‘worked.’ Our job is to keep out of the way, and allow the help, support, healing to make its bridge. We cannot determine or force a particular end to prayer, it must be free and unconditional, or else we may find ourselves cursing, rather than blessing. Our witness enables the subject of the blessing or ceremony to be seen as they really are, and not merely ‘someone in need.’ We keep them in witness as equals, not as ‘unfortunates,’ or else we diminish and disrespect them.

As Merlin says in his prophecies: ‘the dust of the ancients shall be restored.’  May your own deep connections be strengthened and may the wisdom flow down and through you to your descendants!

THE ANCESTRAL ORACLE OF THE CELTS:Call On Your Ancestors For Guidance, Help and Healingby Caitlín, art by Wil Kinghan is available from all the usual places, or personally signed from our website:  http://www.hallowquest.org.uk/product.php?id=128&pageid=5167.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

GIANTS & TROJANS: Brutus and the Mythic Founders of Britain at Hawkwood College, 6-8 December 2019

AN OPEN MYSTERY SCHOOL
Brutus Crowned by Charles Newington from his Frieze of the Brutus Myth
Over the last 34 years John Matthews and myself have led a weekend course in December at Hawkwood College, Stroud, Glos.1Each year we have presented on a different topic, never repeating the weekend again, so it becomes a unique experience created with our co-teachers and participants. We do this every year to honour a trust that was passed to us by Gareth Knightwho ran public magical courses at Hawkwood every year from the 1970s to the 1980s (long before anyone else dared do this). In 1985, Gareth handed over to us his December weekend to continue the work, and we have kept going ever since.

Gareth Knight 
Our very first weekend in 1985 was on the myths of the Mabinogion, and every year since then we have explored the myths and mysteries of the land in a kind of open mystery school to which anyone is welcome to belong by just coming along.  We explore the topic with our special guests who are experts in that field, we meditate to deepen our understanding, and we always create a special ritual for the occasion which, again, is never repeated.3 

Marion Green (far right), with John and Caitlín & friends at the Grail in the Green weekend, Hawkwood College, 1998
We have been very fortunate in our special guests who, over the years, have included Brian and Wendy Froud (creators of the Dark Crystal), Professor Ronald Hutton, Philip Carr-Gomm (Chosen Chief of OBOD), Marian Green (The Invisible College), actor Mark Ryan, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki (Servants of the Light), artist Meinrad Craighead, folklorist Nigel Pennick, musicians Martin & Jessica Simpson, Geraldine Beskin (of Atlantis Bookshop), and Ian Rees (co-author of the Keys to the Kingdom). 

BRUTUS & THE MYTH OF NEW TROY: GIANTS, CHALK HILL FIGURES & THE LEGENDARY FOUNDING OF BRITAIN

Our 34thannual open mystery school course in 2019 is Brutus and The Myth of New Troy: Giants, Chalk Hill Figures, & the Legendary Founding of Britain

Brutus Sailing to Britain by Charles Newington
The legend of Brutus, first told in detail by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his History of the Kings of Britain, relates how his great-grand father, Aeneas, escaped from the ruins of Troy to found a colony in Italy. A seer prophesied that Brutus would kill his mother and father: his mother died giving birth to him, but he later accidentally killed his father while out hunting, and was expelled from Italy. After many wanderings, and promoted by the good graces of the Goddess, Diana, Brutus finally arrived in Britain, where he found it inhabited by giants. After one of his men, Corineus, overcame the chief giant, GogMagog, Brutus was crowned, with the giants becoming the guardians of his city Troynovant or New Troy, the legendary name for London. 
Got & Magog: Guardians of London at the London Guildhall
Today these Gog and Magog (now two giant figures woven by the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers) are processed in the Lord Mayor’s Show every year as the traditional guardians of London. This giant tradition is found all over Western Europe.  We will explore the mythic backgrounds for this legend, and together create masks for the group enactment of this year’s ritual, The Masque of Brutus,4in which the giants will feature. We will be making our own masks for this, in which we will delve into the legend of Brutus and the myth of our living land.

Torchbearer of Oceania from a Masque by Inigo Jones
Our guest co-teacher - artist Charles Newington5– will show us the art of laying chalk hill figures, among other projects in which he is currently engaged.

Corineus & Gog, proposed chalk hill figures for Plymouth Ho, Charles Newington
Charles Newington’s art is renowned worldwide for its mythic depths and quirky humour. He is the creator of the Folkstone White Horse6, a new chalk hill figure, as well as a projected plan to restore the Giant Gogmagog and Cornineus to Plymouth Ho7.  

Charles & his design for the Folkestone White Horse
John and Charles are currently working on a joint project for an exhibition, which is currently under wraps, but which will put the myth of Brutus firmly back on the map.  Charles has created a wonderful frieze, showing the life of Brutus, his arrival in Britain, the fight with the Giant Gog Magog, and his establishment of a line of kings. Below you can see it unrolled down our garden path. Charles has made a canvas version so that it can be displayed about the walls of the hall at Hawkwood for the course, as a kind of Bayeux Tapestry of events.

The Frieze of Brutus, by Charles Newington

You are very welcome to join us for this most enjoyable of our weekends. Everyone who comes automatically becomes one of ‘the Company of Hawkwood,’ in the long tradition of this weekend gathering. On Saturday night we let down our hair to enjoy our annual ceilidh where everyone is invited to participate: we have heard songs, stories, poems, and witnessed silly sketches, dances and a number of other things. Many of our Company return every year to be part of this unique gathering, where hearts and minds are nourished for the descent into deep winter as we come home to the heart of our hearths. If you have never joined us before, you are assured of a warm welcome.

DETAILS OF THE COURSE

6-8 December 2019  BRUTUS & THE MYTH OF NEW TROYGiants, Chalk Hill Figures & the Legendary Foundation of Britain, with John & Caitlín Matthews & special guest, artist, Charles Newington.

We explore the myth of Brutus, the founding of London as New Troy, discovering our native giants and the making chalk hill figures, as we delve into the myths of Britain’s founding at this critical time. No politics, just myth and ritual, so come and join us for our legendary 34th annual open mystery school where we reach beyond the Dark Ages to bring the visions of the land’s guardians into new focus.  Our Open mystery school is open to anyone: come ready for a ritual Masque of Brutus and for our Saturday night ceilidh when we let down our hair!

BOOKING: Single £340, Shared £300, Non-Res £260. Please send your non-returnable deposit of £100 to Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Rd, Stroud, Glos GL6 7QW (01453 759034) info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk. Enclose SAE for map & confirmation.

REFERENCES

1. Hawkwood College is a gracious and welcoming Cotswold house in the limestone hills above Stroud in Gloucestershire. It changed from being a family home in 1948, when it was acquired as an adult educational institute.  With its own grounds, mature trees, and a spring, it has a wonderful atmosphere: the rooms are comfortable and the food very good. We always feel ‘on our contacts’ when we work here.
Hawkwood College in the Wintertime
2. Gareth Knight is a senior ritualist and magician whose influential work, teaching and books have shaped generations of those who serve the Mysteries.  For more information see: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialGarethKnight/  and http://www.angelfire.com/az/garethknight/index.html

3. Several of these rituals appear in our book Arthurian Magic, Llewellyn Press, 2018

4. Our Masque will be after the style of Inigo Jones and Ben Johnson.

5. Charles Newington’s art may be sampled at his website: http://www.charlesnewington.co.uk

6. The Folkstone White Horse project may be viewed here: http://www.charlesnewington.co.uk/folkestone-white-horse/

The Folkestone White Horse by Charles Newington 
7. The Plymouth Giant project can be seen here:

Saturday, 15 September 2018

THE ART OF TAROT TABLEAU READING


THE ART OF TAROT TABLEAU READING



My new book Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots is released on 28 September 2018. Here, I look at the older cartomantic ways of reading tarot, with a special emphasis on reading pips - the single most difficult aspect of older tarots for most taromancers. I also uncover directional reading, whereby the direction that any court or trump card faces determines relationship, action and meaning, and many methods that have been completely lost by taromancers but retained by cartomancers. This book does not call upon esoteric means to read the cards, but upon the skills that were used before 18th century French occult revival.

For most people the move from this:

 
Celtic Wisdom Tarot, Caitlín Matthews
to this:
Pierre Madenié Tarot de Marseille
is a little too much! We have become used to sumptuous pictorial pip tarots over the course of a mere century ago, and we have forgotten how we used to read before this or how to read cards without recourse to esoteric disciplines.  Reading the story that the cards tell as they fall out is an art that I hope to restimulate in Untold Tarot, hence its title.

In this blog, I want to open up tableau reading, using cards I laid back in January 2017 as an example.  A tableau is simply ‘a picture;’ it is still one of the more powerful cartomantic methods of divining because, having laid out a square or rectangle of cards, we can pinpoint precisely where the querent is in the issue, looking where in the tableau it has fallen, noting what is above and below, or to either side.  Tableaux, although they are the most traditional ways of laying cards, look troubling to the modern taromancer’s eye as there are so many cards, but be assured, we read them selectively here. Where the significator shows up in the tableau tells us a lot: the position they land on, the cards that surround them, the direction that they’re facing, the card they’ve turned their backs on, the whole hidden agenda.  

Tableau reading has tended to remain with cartomancers who use playing cards, but tableaux with tarot were common in earlier centuries. An example can be found Casanova’s Memoires, where the libertine, tells us that his young mistress, Zaïre, jealously accused him of his debaucheries by laying ‘a square of twenty-five cards wherein she makes me read all the debaucheries that had kept me out all night long.’ After her detailed reading, which is unfortunately not given, Casanova heaved her entire pack of cards into the fire in disgust. 
Below is a tableau of twenty-five and how to read one, enabling you to discover the precise nature of an issue by giving you the surrounding landscape of the story, allowing you to glimpse where the querent is within their story.  
TABLEAU METHOD
1. Shuffle in your pre-selected significator, and divide the pack into 3 equal piles of 26 cards each. Look through each pile to find which the Significator is in, without changing the order of the cards.

2. Discarding the other two piles, lay out only the Significator pile of 26 cards into 5 cards x 5 rows, placing the last 26thcard in the row nearest to the Significator, or at the edge if it has fallen there as in the example below. This card shows how the querent is facing the question or it act as an ally or the querent’s conscience.

3. Note where the Significator falls in the ranks. Each horizontal row gives us a clue as to the querent’s condition: in the top row, the querent is at the top of his game; in the second row, he’s still pretty good; in row three, things are middling; in row four, it’s beginning to be poor; in row five, things are not good. 

4. The columns reveal where the querent is in her story:  in column one, she is just starting out, while in column five, her story is coming to an end. The columns can also be related to time, with the column in which the Significator has fallen being ‘now,’ the ones to the left the nearer or further past, the ones to the right the nearer or farther future. The cards can be laid as follows:

1  -  2   - 3  - 4  - 5      
6  -  7   - 8  - 9 - 10    
11 - 12  -13  -14 -15    
16 - 17 - 18 - 19 -20    +26
21 - 22 - 23 - 24 - 25 

5. Look over the whole tableau and note any clumps of cards that sing out immediately, then turn to the breakdown.  There are many ways of reading what is there, including:
A. Read the Corners as a statement: 1 + 25 and 5 +21. This gives the outline of the story.
B. Read the cross of cards above, below, and either side of Significator.  If it is at an edge, use the extra card to complete the cross. What’s above, below, to left and right of them?
C. Check the Pivot card in the central 13thposition. This shows the issue’s origin or fixation.
D. Check the Diagonals leading to and from the Significator.
E. Read the inner cross: 8,12,14, 18 and the outer cross 3,11,15,23.
You can also look at interrelations between cards by means of knighting - the steps away from the card, in any direction, that are like knight's move in chess: two steps up, down, or to either side, and one step to the left or right.  By mirroring - comparing or pairing cards that are at opposite ends of the tableau - we can determine how things work out dynamically.

 TABLEAU DRAWN FOR THE INAUGURATION OF TRUMP 
   on 20th January 2017

Inauguration Tableau - Camoin Tarot de Marseille

Key:
2C – 5B -10D – Star – 5C
2S  - 6S – QC – Fool – Kt S       
KS     KD– Popess- 8S-   2B – 8B
        10S –PC –World -4B – 7S
        QS  - 6D – 10B – QB – Temperance

Key to abbreviations: S=Swords, B= Batons, C = Cups, D = Deniers/Coins, P = Page, K = King, Kt = Knight  Q = Queen

The preselected significator of King Deniers stands for Trump himself, found at the beginning of the 3rd line. The extra 26th card is the genius or power that governs him, the King Swords.
    The corners of the tableau tell us that this is a story of how a democracy plays out: nearly all cups, if we include Temperance: the electorate voted to divide the country and put it in state of disharmony and challenge, putting everyone on their guard.  This is not a civil war, but it is feeling like one. The Centre card of 8 Swords shows the state of the country: disappointment, on-going trauma, stickiness, and the niggling of his shifting words and uninformed sayings.
         Trump himself is represented by King Deniers, as a businessman, and he has turned up in the centre line, making a sandwich filling between the other lines. He looks to Popess who is not going to answer his overtures, however he objectifies her. I see this card as the spirit of the US herself, since it is a motherland, but here we don’t have the nourishing mother, but rather the stern mentor.  Behind her is 8 Swords, 2 Batons and 8 Batons: a fearful state of mind is battling with a sense of stuckness, as this inaugural day makes clear how trapped much of the country feels.

Women's March on Washington, 20 January 2017
         Trump himself knights both Queen Cups and the World, so while he will try to come over all appealing and sympatico on the world scene, under him is 10 Swords where our worst fears are realized and where paranoia and conspiracy-mindedness rules the roost. Over his head is 2 Swords which shows his mindset is pretty self-conflicted. He can believe two impossible things before breakfast.  To his left, is his genius, or what motivates him: King Swords gives him a hard and uncompromising front, where everything is always falling into aggression.
         What strikes me are the two10s in the middle column: there are three tens in the reading overall, which means accelerating intensity – the only ten that is missing from this is 10 cups, so we don’t expect an over-plus of love and compassion in this administration! We have, in order, 10 Deniers and 10 Batons – this probably tells us what we need to know that, in the pecking order of priority, Trump’s interests are financial first, with business interests being the bottom denominator, so expect policies driven by business interests.
         Trump’s personal style is seen in the knighting with 5 Batons in top line: this shows us his boorish machismo. Also knighting him on the bottom line is 6 Deniers, which perhaps betrays a certain miserliness which is going to play out, between those two Queens of Swords and Batons, as a fiscal meanness.
         Looking ahead we have a tangle of Batons in the mid right section: 2 Batons becomes 4 Batons below, signaling bureaucratic disorganization, with 8 Batons to the right, there will be an attempt to pull things into better organization, but I suspect it will be easier to scrap the whole system that he builds up, frankly.
         The two Cup courts in the reading bear looking at, as they seem to typify Trump’s sickly attempts to present as a good boy or conciliator, but they both involve his trying to backpedal the effect of Swords: Page Cups is looking towards 10 Swords, while Queen Cups is turning her back on Fool with Knight Swords.  Page of Cups is Trump the good boy trying to sweeten the pill of all-out aggression and war. Queen of Cups is having a hard time trying to ameliorate 2 and 6 Swords together which I suspect is about learning to live with the choices he’s made, if Fool and Knight Swords have anything to do with it. This last combo is a Don Quixote style aspiration of his: he wants to be the shining champion but he just looks like Sancho Panza.
       If we see Page Cups as Trumps' minion, then anyone working for him is going to be going cap in hand between his aggression and the world powers. The Page has the Popess overhead, and the 6 Deniers below showing that, as public servants, while they are mindful of the public good, they will end up appearing in a worse light than their president.
         Is there any hope here? Star with 5 Cups in the upper right corner: the duration of this term will probably prove to be a time of developing female strategy so that, come the next election or next government, women will be seen as essential in the governmental mix.  This is borne out by the mirroring cards, bottom right corner:  Queen Batons and Temperance – this could well indicate a female president in the future, someone who will temper the extravagances and inequities of what will be seen as a biased presidency.

Analysis: 6 Swords, 6 Batons, 3 Cups, 2 Deniers, 5 trumps. This will be a contentious and combative term of government, in which the balance of world power is going to be polarizing Trump by reflecting compassionate or humanitarian views, which will be largely ignored. The cross about the central card: Queen Cups, Popess, 2 Batons and World surround 8 Swords – reason and compassion are trying for a short period of time (a traditional meaning for 2 Batons) to integrate him into the World stage, but the far cross of 10 Deniers, King Deniers, 8 Batons and 10 Batons are destabilizing factors: with shady deaings across the water, where Trump creates malcontent. 

There is much more in this tableau that could be pulled out, but I leave further analysis you yourself. There is much that we could add, in retrospect, as this presidency is still with us. I hope that you will find some new ways to read here, find the confidence to try an older tarot, and enjoy finding the untold story for yourself.

Caitlín reading TdM


UNTOLD TAROT is available from all the usual sources, but also from Caitlín, if you'd like a signed copy. http://www.hallowquest.org.uk/product.php?id=176&pageid=5167





Wednesday, 6 June 2018

RESTORING OUR SACRED IMAGES TO THE WORLD

‘Behind your hand there must be present thousands of powers that move it. These mysterious things that are inside us and which want to find expression are not all ours but also of those who preceded us and transmitted them to us. This is called tradition.’ - Philip Kontoglou, iconographer


Earlier this Spring, I logged onto Facebook, to be confronted with a plethora of images of the Goddess of Spring, in the context of people wishing each other a Happy Equinox. One image in particular made me fall back in amazement: a hyper-real glamour-puss with a décolletage down to her navel, and a lascivious expression that suggested she might have fallen out of a pornographic magazine rather than any earth tradition.  Is this really how people perceive and understand their divinities, I wondered? Bad religious art is bad in all denominations, of course: super-sweet Madonnas, pallid-looking Saviours, or cutesy Ganeshas can be equally alienating!  And while some things are a matter of personal taste and aesthetics, the depiction of sacred beings as floozies or brainless he-men is insulting to the divinity in question, and hardly the kind of thing we would want our children to be inspired by. 

Arthur by Will Worthington, from The Camelot Oracle by John Matthew
Every culture and time has its own art, and nothing so dates an era as cultural imagination, but where is the sacred art of our time? We are blessed to have many fine artists like Will Worthington, and Wil Kinghan, who have opened windows into the ancient Celtic world, as well as many other painters and craftspeople whose vision does them credit. But, on the other hand, there are also many more images like those of the unfortunate equinoctial being I mentioned above, as well as air-brushed images of what appear to me to be human people, not spiritual beings or divinities at all – they look like people you could meet at the car-boot or in the supermarket, and I am sorry, but they don’t inspire me or make me feel I am being powerfully upheld. Over the last few years, this change in how we depict sacred images has begun to more than bother me. Where are the images that depict the timeless acts of our sacred imagination?

Now, everyone of us meditates, or stands in the sacred land, communing with the powers that be, and we experience something very different from bad-taste art: I know this, not only from personal experience, but from the relations of students and readers who share their perceptions and understandings with me. I know it distresses devotees that they cannot find the image or statue of the beings that they venerate, or that they have to make do with pictures that are not worthy of those divinities. I began to ask myself, how can we restore the sacred images to our world? 

Of course, the pre-Christian world had many beautiful images, whose destruction ensured that many ancient, ancestral visions of the sacred were lost to us. Such iconoclasm is still going on in our world, as we see from the destruction of many historic sites, like Palmyra, which Daesh smashed to rubble: the loss of artefacts, images and sacred sites is not just a loss of beauty, it is loss of ancestral heritage and cultural inspiration. The sacred images of pagan traditions in a present era have largely yet to emerge.

Restoring these images, from the heart of our imagination seems to me a sacred task that is laid upon us at this time. Bringing the images of our divinities, heroes, and holy ancestors back into the world for ourselves and our community enables the iconic moments of our beliefs and the sacred myths to be manifest once again, to continually inspire us. But it is not just a matter of reproducing ancient artefacts or copying sacred images: it is about finding them in our own vision.

Merlin and the Dragons, icon
In the light these thoughts, over the last few years, I have begun to learn the technique of painting icons in egg-tempera, where earth and mineral pigments are mixed with egg yolk to making a painting emulsion with the addition of water and wine – a medium that preserves down the centuries. Icons are not illustrations, but rather windows into the otherworld. We don’t invent icons: they arise from the genuine visions and interactions that we have already had with the divine beings of our devotion; we have already observed them with the eyes of the heart. Now, while I had a good art education, I would not regard myself to be any kind of great artist, but I am a good prayer! Bringing sacred images into being on a gessoed board, requires meditation, prayer and a deep communion with the being in question. 

An icon is made up of many layers. We paint from the darkness to the light, much as we first approach a sacred being in the very beginning: at first, we do not see the likeness of our devotion clearly – their features are not known to us. We begin with a sense of presence and companionship, or awe or mystery. As we continue to meditate and the divinity or ancestor comes closer to us, our perception begins to clarify. Even so, we start over again every day, moving from the darkness of unknowing, through many different shades of colour, into the clear light of their presence. 

Sketch for Maiden of the Wells C. Matthews
Maiden of the Wells icon, C. Matthews

  
















If you are familiar with Orthodox icons, which kept alive the Eastern Mediterranean skill of egg-tempera, you will be aware that they look different from other kinds of depictions. Icons use inverse perspective: rather than the Renaissance ‘vanishing point,’ whereby all the lines of perspective are aligned and widen out to our view, something else seems to be happening -  the perspective lines rather converge on the viewer because the subject looks out at us.In effect, the icon ‘comes to us,’ which is, of course, how our perception of the sacred being happens. The divinity, hero, spirit or ancestor, already witnesses us,and this is why we feel their warmth and love that drew us to the being in the first place. These images are never sappy nor sentimental, but powerful: they appear on their own terms, not ours.
St Michael, in progress, showing the underpainting
C. Matthews

In an icon, we capture the essence of timelessness, making it possible for us to experience the prototype of a being or sacred happening, so that we may witness it. This was well described by the philosopher Sallustius, the amanuensis of the Emperor Julian, who attempted to restore Pagan belief to a Christianising world, who said: ‘Myth is something that has never happened, but is happening all the time.’  For example, we experience the loss and finding of Mabon, son of Modron, not as an historic event that once happened, but as a loss that lays us waste, and also as a finding that reunites our fragmentation: it affects us now, in this very moment. We experience the Goddess of the Earth not only as bountiful mother, but also we are aware of her in every devastation and loss that our physical world suffers. We are thirsty for the wisdom that never dies, and we seek the action of the Grail or Cauldron that irrigates our dryness, and heals our wounds.

The Way Shower by Wil Kinghan, from
Celtic Wisdom Oracle by C. Matthews
The Brehon by Wil Kinghan, from
CelticWisdom Oracle by C. Matthews



















Restoring the sacred images to our world ensures that they are present to tell us that we are not alone. When we go in and out, when we eat or rest, when we celebrate or mourn, the sacred images are present in our world, as well as in the otherworld, enabling the sublime to be present among us, as an embodiment that inspires us every day. I, for one, would be most interested to see the emergence of images that worthily uphold our spirituality, and inspire generations to come. 


Caitlín Matthews & Felicity Wombwell are leading Images of the Heart: Painting our Sacred Images, an icon painting course, open to people of all backgrounds. No artistic ability is required, but there are some preparatory steps before you come. Held on 24-27 August 2018 at Hawkwood College. See: http://www.hawkwoodcollege.co.uk/courses-and-events/spirituality/icons-of-the-heart-painting-our-sacred-images---caitlin-matthews-and-felicity-wombwell