We rang in the New Year with quality family time (board games and TV), and a really epic cheese board. I feel like, in the midst of dread and fear and sadness, remembering to have cheese boards is going to be the kind of thing we need to keep us sane. It was kind of expensive, but then again we had a lot of leftovers. If I were to do it again, I would not accidentally pay $15.99 for a wild boar salami. Regular salami would be fine.
For the past twenty years or so, I have owned a deck of Tarot cards, and-- I know it sounds ridiculous-- but I know how to use them. Sometimes, at the beginning of a new chapter, or in times of bewilderment (and this is both), I will ask for some guidance. Sometimes it helps, sometimes not. Sometimes, I've asked a stupid question, or my whole heart is muddled, and the cards also are muddled, trivial, and forgettable. ("Forgettable" also often means I didn't care for the information I got.) Occasionally-- very occasionally-- a Tarot reading hits like a ton of bricks. This is especially the case when a lot of major arcana are present, signalling: "This is important."
I almost stopped here to assure you that I don't believe in magic, that my interest in Tarot is purely a matter of accessing one's own subconscious knowledge. But I was finding it hard to write that sentence properly, and eventually it occurred to me that this was because it was a big-ass lie. I don't believe in magic, per se. But I do believe in fate, in a kind of complicated way, and possibly I believe in God, and I don't see why a pack of cards should be any less subject to what I perceive as the laws and vagaries of the moral universe than everything else, so why should they not ever arrange themselves into useful messages, just like the flocks of birds do when they carry to me a sign of hope even while simultaneously going about their own God-given business?
Anyway, this morning I stopped to ask the Tarot about my path in 2017: wtf is it, basically. But a classic Celtic cross Tarot reading actually tells you more about what is happening than what will happen. This particular reading was one of those ton-of-bricks ones. Please only read this next bit if you have an interest in/knowledge of Tarot; otherwise it will bore you to death. You can rejoin us here* (scroll down)
3. Tarot readers know that The Fool-- who lies here in a kind of founding, underlying, deep-consciousness position-- is the most important card in the deck. He is the undefined well of all possibility, because he is unburdened by knowledge or expectation, and operates outside the bounds of logic and preconception. He is the zero card, literally. And he also represents the questioner in her primal form, each one of us born unformed, an open and curious blank page. Each time we take the risk of open-mindedness or open-heartedness in life, or embrace the unknown, we are The Fool (and are often called one). My Fool, here, is reversed, because I am not approaching this massive unknown in a spirit of complete openness (though there is a little exhilaration to it), but also of fear (see #5).
5. (I always read 3 and 5 together, then 4 and 6. It just makes more sense.) Above the cross, in the position representing my conscious understanding, we see The Devil (also reversed). Everyone always goes on about how the Devil is not literal in Tarot. Well, I guess not, because most of us don't believe in literal big red demons appearing to take a hand in things. However, if your understanding of the devil is that he represents everything that foments evil within us-- fear, jealousy, addiction, petty dulling of the mind and senses-- did I mention fear?-- then I think it is accurate to say my consciousness is full of him now. He is both the thing that I fear, and a representation of my own fear, which is always a dangerous emotion to court.
3/5 form a pair, a tension, between a fundamental innocence and freedom, and an imposed consciousness of evil. They are both reversed, neither fully-expressed. Conscious thought is not necessarily wrong, but it often is.
4/6 form a different kind of pair, a temporal one, with 4 describing the (recent) past and 6 describing the (near) future. Card 4 is the major arcana Judgement, which is a complex card of multiple meanings, but what I would here read simply, as representing Election Day itself. The "day of reckoning." Again, it is reversed, perhaps to indicate the rather tortured and ambiguous nature of this reckoning, as well as the fact that I think it sucked.
And card 6? The future I am heading directly towards? Here comes the ton of bricks. Justice.
7/8. Another pair. Card 7 can be seen as "who we are" in relation to the reading, Card 8 I typically read as the influence of an important other or others. Card 7, with the last of this reading's major arcana, brings another blast by naming me, outrageously, The Magician. This is card number 1, right after The Fool, which is about raw, elemental power, the channeling of the unformed emptiness of the Fool's world into formed creation. Logos, or a guy with a magic wand, or action!, making something new. Of course, the Magician, like nearly everybody here except for (thank God) Justice, is reversed, because how can any of that be easy or simple, especially for a crabbed old tangled useless person like me? But, how amazing, to imagine that after farting around for probably more than half my damned life, I might be finally chosen to DO something (also see, even more amazingly, the corroboration of Card 10).
Card 8, the 10 of Pentacles, shows a material fullness, comfort and abundance. Since this is the card position representing others' roles, I can expect cheese boards with family and friends to nourish me when times are tough and there's not too much power in my wand. This card, too, is reversed-- nothing is going to be easy, not that easy. But there is sustenance there, and community.
9. This position is always difficult for me to put my finger on. I call it the "hopes and fears card," but maybe more accurately I think of it as the "illusions card," a second place (like card 5) where one's own mental constructs are represented. Not "what is real," but "what are you worried about?," or "what pipe dream are you indulging?" In this case, the 5 of Cups (reversed again!) shows loss and regret, some very serious spilt milk. Is this just fear of the losses inherent in the world going all to hell? Perhaps, or perhaps it is more personal, a fear that any attempts toward justice or action on my part are bound to suck.
10. The final position is the long-term future or "ultimate result," though of course no story ever ends and no future is certain. For a budding activist, though, the two of wands is a good card to have in this position. Wands is the action suit, and the two of wands "taps the same energy as the Magician, but with one important difference. The Magician represents the archetype of power - the impersonal energy of creativity and strength. The Two of Wands stands for that power brought down to Earth and made personal." Also, unlike most of the other cards, the two of wands was not reversed, suggesting that in the long-term I may be able to throw off some of the inhibitions that restrict my movement now. Put together, then, with the Magician and Justice, the reading is very favorable for activism!
Rejoin us here!* In summary, my 2017 Tarot reading suggested that my path forward might be to become a butt-kicking activist. This pleased me.
[Jan 8 update]: In the way of these past couple of months, so much has happened since I failed to finish this blog post on January 3. As everyone knows by now, House Republicans failed miserably in their grand plan to undercut ethics oversight in their chamber. For that, we have ourselves, the national press, and (strangely) Donald Trump to thank. New challenges abound, though:
Two different bills have passed the Republican House this week that would serve to hugely undermine the executive branch's ability to implement any regulations-- both the Obama administration's past 6 months of work, and the Trump administration's future work, as well as that of the Democrat (I trust) who will succeed this administration. It is vitally important that they do not pass the Senate.
The Midnight Rule Relief Act would allow all rules finalized by the Obama administration since June (60 legislative days) to be dismissed as a batch without further debate, purely on the basis of their being too last-minute.
The REINS ("Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny") Act creates a system under which every new federal regulation (that would have more than a $100 million projected impact) would have to be explicitly approved by Congress within 70 days, or be considered rejected by default. Therefore, the executive branch could spend years developing new regulations, and then have them consistently die in Congress by simple lack of action. Imagine if these were, say, the kinds of long-hashed-out rules we got out West over land/wildlife management issues, with years of public comments and much negotiation among stakeholders? And then, after all this work, they go to Congress... and quietly expire. Some find this bill appealing in the short term, because it might make it easier to block Donald Trump's activities. I believe we should remember that there are a lot of hard-working, nonpartisan people laboring in many federal agencies for the benefit of the nation, and their work should not be consistently relegated to the trash bin over political ideology. What a recipe for despair in government!
Both of these pieces of legislation have already been introduced in the Senate. PLEASE call your senators if you oppose these bills (or one of these bills) and let them know your opinion. What many of us are newly discovering, with a kind of wondering delight, is that they REALLY DO TALLY THESE CALLS! It matters. These may seem like arcane rules, but in fact they have the potential to affect hundreds or thousands of issues that are important to us.
Your senator's contact info is here.
We also have an absurd numbers of cabinet nomination hearings coming up in the Senate, even though many of these nominees have not been thoroughly vetted yet by the Office of Government Ethics (you know, the one that the House Republicans never had on the chopping block). Six major cabinet nominees will have their hearings this Wednesday. [Correction: Jeff Sessions is Tuesday.] They are:
- Mike Pompeo for CIA Director
- Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education
- Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State
- Jeff Sessions for Attorney General
- John Kelly (who?) for Secretary of Homeland Security
- Elaine Chao for Secretary of Transportation (note she is also married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell)