Hermit

The Hermit, from The Brightwing Tarot by Beth Weaver-Kreider and AI.

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Quest, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the tarot cards. I have been using the tarot as a tool for deep inner understanding and spiritual growth and development since 1992, and I thought it was time to do a public exploration of some of the ways in which this tool has helped me to learn more about myself and my connection to others and to the Holy One.

The way out is the way in.

Recently, I have begun praying the rosary. I’m in the middle of a 54-day novena, praying along with a group of others for our heart’s desire. I’ve been praying that I may live wildly and freely, unbound by others’ expectations and boxes. I can feel this prayer working and growing within me every day. The saint that we’ve been focusing on during this novena is St. Thecla, who listened to the apostle Paul and herself became an evangelist. Her story is told in the Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla. Thecla was captivated by Paul’s preaching, particularly with his ideas of celibacy, which seemed to offer her freedom from an arranged marriage and the Roman ideas of respectability proscribed to young women of her day. Instead of being caged within her proscribed gender role, Thecla became a wandering preacher, wearing men’s clothes, and living on her own terms.

I’ve been thinking about St. Thecla quite a bit lately as I have been considering the tarot. The eighth card in the Major Arcana is Strength, which traditionally features a young woman closing the mouth of a lion. In St. Thecla’s story, when she refused the advances of a prince of the city, she was thrown to the lions, but they would not harm her, and one female lion actually protected her from the others. Thecla, like Strength, is portrayed in the company of lions, not dominating them, but quietly present with them.

Later in her life, having survived several attempts by powerful people to have her put to death, she withdrew from human society and lived in a desert cave, as many of the church’s early mothers and fathers did, where she ministered to people who came to visit her, and performed many miracles of healing.

So today’s Tarot character, the Hermit, is also reminiscent of St. Thecla. The Hermit withdraws from the hustle and bustle of society in order to focus and think, to pray and contemplate, to do inner work.

The way out, they say, is the way in.

The Hermit is a special kind of activist, an inner activist, who anchors and focuses the work that must be done through prayer, contemplation, generating healing energy, developing wisdom–not hoarding it. The Fool comes to the Hermit in the wilderness to learn to anchor and channel energy, to balance outward movement with inward contemplation. The Hermit is always portrayed carrying the light of their own inner wisdom in the wilderness. The Fool comes to the Hermit and learns to find the fount of Wisdom within.

One of the lessons I still carry from my college days was one a group of our professors worked hard to help us explore: that the work of the activist to create social justice must be balanced with inner work. Contemplation feeds action. Action enriches contemplation.

If you’re a Hermit, don’t give into feelings of shame that you aren’t doing more active work in the world. Do the work you’re called to do. Anchor energies. Pray. Find wisdom. Welcome the seekers. Be a refreshing fountain where your beloveds who are at the front lines of activism may come and receive your healing calm and wisdom.


Gratitude List:
1. Hummingbird
2. Holiness everywhere. In the Aenid of Virgil is the phrase: Incessu patuit dea. The Goddess is revealed as she passes. Everywhere you turn, She is there.
3. Wide and welcoming tables, and the people who work to create them.
4. My colleagues are so incredibly supportive and welcoming.
5. Cats
May we walk in Beauty!


“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke


“Hope is a renewable option:
If you run out of it at the end of the day, you get to start over in the morning.” ―Barbara Kingsolver


“There is a voice that doesn’t use words.
Listen.”
―Rumi


“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
―Carl Jung


“I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.”
―Mary Oliver


“We have come into this exquisite world to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom, and light.”
―Hafiz


“Our space was a home because we loved each other in it.” —Barbara Ehrenreich


“A lot of what we experience as strength comes from knowing what to do with weakness.” —Barbara Ehrenreich


“There is a vast difference between positive thinking and existential courage.” —Barbara Ehrenreich

Strength

Strength, from The Brightwing Tarot Deck, by me and AI.

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Quest, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the tarot cards. I have been using the tarot as a tool for deep inner understanding and spiritual growth and development since 1992, and I thought it was time to do a public exploration of some of the ways in which this tool has helped me to learn more about myself and my connection to others and to the Holy One.

So much of the work of The Fool in this journey through the major arcana of the tarot is related to deepening the understanding of the ego. Meet this mentor or wise person, humbly learn at their feet, and joyfully integrate this new learning into the ego, building and nurturing your identity as you go.

“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.”
—Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Today’s step on the pathway is Strength. How does your ego integrate the concept of strength? The traditional card is an image of a woman closing the mouth of a lion, not with angry force, but with the power of her ego-engagement with the lion. Her strength does not brutalize or dominate the lion, but meets it head on, trusting that she is a match for the powerful creature in her presence. The Brightwing card shows a woman and a leopard contemplating a mountain, a meeting of daunting and powerful beings, all in balance and equal engagement with each other.

When strength gets muddled with force, our intention to be strong can get focused outward, harming others with our domination and power rather than finding Strength within. Often the people who dominate and force others to their will on the outside are people with very little inner strength, whose egos run roughshod over the lives of others.

What The Fool learns at this stage of the journey is to meet challenges with inner strength instead of outer force, to stand up for her own needs and desires without trampling the needs and desires of others. She becomes a safe space for herself, and for others. Her ego is so intact, so solid, that she does not need to do harm in order to command the situation.


Gratitude List:
1. The Truth-tellers
2. Chicory, day lily, Queen Anne’s lace, buttercup, summer flowers
3. Wise friends
4. Nurses
5. Summer
May we walk in Beauty!


“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” —Richard Rohr


Marc Chagall: “In life there is a single color, it is the color of love.”


“Each of us faces a time when the holy well within needs tending. When we’re no longer able to bestow blessings on others because we’ve overgiven, or when something precious has been taken from us, or life’s demands are too great on our fragile system. But when the moisture goes out of our lives, and we’re no longer able to see beauty or converse with magic, we must ask ourselves how we can replenish our well-ness.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“We never belonged to you. / You never found us. / It was always the other way round.” —Margaret Atwood


“Would you like to have an adventure now, or would you like your tea first?” —JM Barrie


“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” —Zora Neale Hurston


“. . .The knowledge of the heart is in no book and is not to be found in the mouth of any teacher, but grows out of you like the green seed from the dark earth…” —Carl Jung


“Listen. . .with the ear of your heart.” —The Rule of St. Benedict


“It’s always the beginning of the world.
Even if you don’t call yourself an artist, you have the potential to be a dynamic creator who is always hatching new plans, coming up with fresh ideas, and shifting your approach to everything you do as you adjust to life’s ceaseless invitation to change.
It’s to this part of you—the restless, inventive spirit—that I address the following: Unleash yourself! Don’t be satisfied with the world the way it is; don’t sit back passively and blankly complain about the dead weight of the mediocre status quo.
Instead, call on your curiosity and charisma and expressiveness and lust for life as you tinker with and rebuild everything you see so that it’s in greater harmony with the laws of love and more hospitable to your soul’s code.” —Rob Breszny

Moving Forward

The Chariot card from Brightwing Tarot

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Quest, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards. I have been using the tarot as a tool for deep inner understanding and spiritual growth and development since 1992, and I thought it was time to do a public exploration of some of the ways in which this tool has helped me to learn more about myself and my connection to others and to the Holy One.

Once, I was telling a wise woman about something that was hurting me, a situation of betrayal and injustice. She paused and gave me her wise questioning look and said, “What do you need from X in order for you to release your resentment?”

I was a little shook. Yes, it is my resentment, I thought, and it belongs to me. Why do I want to release it? It had become a defining element of my sense of who I was in the context of the conflict. I had put on my resentment like an article of clothing , almost like a fashion statement that expressed my sense of who I was. But: Of COURSE I wanted to release it! I knew that holding onto it would just keep me caught in the past, unable to truly move forward. The question itself led me to begin doing the work of releasing the resentment, of stepping forward.

This stepping stone in the Fool’s Quest has the Fool taking responsibility for their journey, and moving forward, consciously and with spiritual will. We cannot move forward if we are mired in the past. In the traditional card, a royal person (representing someone who is using consciousness and enlightenment to guide their movement) is driving a chariot pulled by sphinxes. Sphinxes, from ancient times, represent canny wisdom and knowledge, the ability to think around a problem to solve a riddle. The black and white likely refer to the polar tug to reach enlightenment through thinking and spiritual striving and embodiment. One pulls downward, and the other pulls upward, and this balanced motion is the key to the movement and change that The Chariot card requires.

Jewish mystical tradition uses the symbol of the Merkabah (called the chariot) to symbolize this balanced movement. The Star of David is a two-dimensional representation of this balance–one triangle pointing upward, the other downward. The Merkabah is this image in 3D: an upward-pointing pyramid interlocked with a downward-facing pyramid. The Merkabah is the chariot that the prophet Ezekiel saw in his visions, the Holy One’s chariot, pulled by angelic creatures.

My own card is a representation of the Merkabah, that holy space of conscious awareness, the balanced spiritual striving and the embodied awareness. I was unsatisfied with all the versions the AI gave me when I used the word chariot in a phrase, but when I used Merkabah, it suddenly began giving me mystical and movement-filled images.

For me, in the story of the wise woman and the question about releasing resentments, the conscious act of exploring that question started the chariot moving. The wise woman was the sphinx I needed, asking me a riddle that startled me into thinking in a different way. And today, perhaps I can again begin to release my hold on the past, so I can hang in the space between my embodied experience and my spiritual striving, and move toward a future which I envision.


Gratitude List:
1. Stepping back into Daily Art Practice.
2. That cardinal out there, shiny red beacon on a rainy day, and liquid notes falling through the air like raindrops.
3. Cool June days.
4. People who ask the right question at the right moment.
5. Moving forward. Getting unstuck.
May we move forward in Beauty!


“The wisdom is already within you. The gift of that wisdom was given to you many years ago when you were young. An awareness of the Spirit. A curiosity about the sacred. You were born with the light already in your soul. Over many years your insights into the holy have matured and developed. You have grown through experience to understand even more deeply the many layered reality in which you live. Now the vision of your inner self looks out onto an endless star lit sky. You have a deep wisdom on which to rely and learnings to come that will strengthen you even more.” —Steven Charleston


“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.
Perception is not reality.
What appear to be faults in others may actually be reflections of our own emotional afflictions.

Remember the way people treat us is their karma.
The way we react is our own.”
—Trulshik Rinpoch


“They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.” ―Granny Weatherwax, Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites


‪”Nature is real and vital. Wealth is neither. How is it we grant imaginary dragons the power to breathe real fire?‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“Only you and I can help the sun rise each coming morning. If we don’t, it may drench itself out in sorrow. You special, miraculous, unrepeatable, fragile, fearful, tender, lost, sparkling ruby emerald jewel, rainbow splendor person. It’s up to you.” —Joan Baez


“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
―Leymah Gbowee


“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” —Dr. Seuss


“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” —Nelson Mandela


“Every child you encounter is a divine appointment.” —Wess Stafford


“Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.” —Fred Rogers


“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.” —Nelson Mandela


“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” —Frederick Douglass


“When you realize the Earth is so much more than simply your environment, you’ll be moved to protect her in the same way as you would yourself. This is the kind of awareness, the kind of awakening that we need, and the future of the planet depends on whether we’re able to cultivate this insight or not. The Earth and all species on Earth are in real danger. Yet if we can develop a deep relationship with the Earth, we’ll have enough love, strength and awakening in order to change our way of life.” —Thich Nhat Hanh


“I have said this before, and I will say it again, The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy.” —John Lewis

Anam Cara

Anam Cara card from Brightwing Tarot.

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Quest, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards. My use of the tarot as a tool for deep inner understanding and spiritual growth and development has recently caused some shifts in my life. What people do not understand, they often demonize, and my use of the tarot has caused people in my community to doubt my truth and goodness. Instead of giving in to the scandal and shaming, I have decided to publicly explore the rich terrain of this tool for inner wisdom that I have been studying since 1992.

The sixth card on the Fool’s Quest is the Anam Cara, traditionally known as The Lovers. While I am completely comfortable with the simple meaning of this card as a reminder to look to the balance of romance and sexuality in one’s life, I think this card is much more layered. We humans are complex and multi-faceted, and reducing the love balance in this card to sexuality and romance feels too simplistic.

The Irish poet (and former priest) John O’Donohue began using the term anam cara, or Soul Friend, to express the deep level of friendship that extends beyond the surface, that meets emotional needs, but also enriches and nurtures emotional and spiritual growth. Hopefully you have one or more of these people in your life, people who integrate you, make you feel more whole and complete, not because they fill a void within you, but because they believe in your capacity to be always more fully yourself. And people for whom you can reciprocate.

At this stage in the Quest, after the Fool has learned skills and mysteries and knowledge, you (for you and I are the Fool) draw to yourself the Anam Cara, the friend who can spur you to deeper understanding of yourself in the world, one who listens and engages and challenges you. Blessed are you if you have found such a person or community in your life. The Anam Cara, I think, is different than a loving teacher. That was our last card. This is someone who is on the journey with you, experiencing it with you. You teach each other, smooth each other’s sharp edges, share openly about your bitters and sweets. You love deeply and openly, reciprocating, sharing, mirroring.

This person may indeed be your lover, but might as likely be a friend or group of friends. How can you nurture these sorts of deep, give and take, committed relationships in your life?

Can you be your own Anam Cara? To some degree, I think that’s part of the point of this quest, to meet that deep inner self that gets hidden under all the masks and veils of everyday existence. Perhaps it’s only in truly meeting and knowing my own inner Anam Cara that I can be openly available to engage others at that deep level as well. And, as Aristotle pointed out, friendship is a mirror in which we see ourselves, so having strong, loving, soulful relationships helps us to see ourownselves more clearly and deeply, so the path outward–toward another–is in this case the path inward–toward deep inner knowing.


Gratitude List:
1. Soul Friends, mirrors, companions on the journey
2. Lunch with two former students yesterday. What marvelous humans! Their lasting friendship is inspiring. I’m so grateful they included me in their time together, so grateful our paths crossed so many years ago, and again today.
3. I signed the papers! It’s official. I’ll be teaching at The Janus School this fall as a Humanities teacher. I may be teaching some science and social studies (thank you, Waldorf School, for that experience), as well as language arts–using my background in reading and writing instruction. Classes are small. The philosophy feels like a good match for me. I love that this is a position that will both draw on my skills and offer me new challenges to learn and develop.
4. The travelers. So many of my online friends are traveling these days! Lots to various places in the UK, some to mainland Europe, others throughout the US. Because I can’t be traveling to those places at this point, I am delighted to be an armchair traveler, exploring the world through their eyes.
5. Faces in the Green. Do you ever find yourself idly gazing at a tree or a group of trees, and suddenly see the faces? I can’t often intentionally start looking for faces in the woods, but when I’m not thinking about it, I’ll suddenly see a face or series of faces, and when the breezes are blowing, like now, they seem to be talking. There’s a name for it, which I always forget, for noticing faces in objects and environments.
May we walk in Beauty!


“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” —Eckhart Tolle
*****
“We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own—indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. This will happen if we see the need to revive our sense of belonging to a larger family of life, with which we have shared our evolutionary process.” —Wangari Maathai


“When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?” ―Eleanor Roosevelt


“Do you not see how everything that happens keeps on being a beginning?” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“Every soul innately yearns for stillness, for a space, a garden where we can till, sow, reap, and rest, and by doing so come to a deeper sense of self and our place in the universe. Silence is not an absence but a presence. Not an emptiness but repletion A filling up.” —Anne D. LeClaire


“To me, every hour of the day and night
is an unspeakably perfect miracle. ” —Walt Whitman


“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.” —Etty Hillesum


“Am I killing time, or is it killing me?” —The Middle Brother Band

The Teacher

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Journey, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards. As I work on creating my own deck with the help of an online AI image generator, I am renaming some of the cards to unthread the gendered nature of the older titles, but holding the images and ideas I have learned in twenty years of studying the tarot carefully in my center while I consider their significance.

I have been struggling to meditate on this one because of my own recent pain. For so many years of my life, I have identified as a teacher, and since early April, I have doubted that path, considered other options as perfectly viable options for my future, and finally, returned to The Teacher as my primary vocational destiny. It came clear to me one morning, just after I celebrated the graduation of the senior class I was unable to finish teaching. Being among them, even after the grief and rage of this loss, reminded me of the thing that brings me most alive. And so, I said Yes to a small school that has offered me a position as a Humanities Teacher. I am feeling satisfied and grateful. I have not yet signed the paperwork, so I won’t give details just yet.

In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, this card is the Hierophant, a figure in the clothes of a bishop or pope, holding up a hand in blessing. The idea that comes with this card is the passing on of tradition. But it looks so patriarchal, I just struggle with it. As I worked with this card with friends, we came to see that this isn’t inherently about passing on the patriarchy, but about passing on knowledge and history, nurturing ideas and critical thinking. This is, to me, The Teacher.

I’ve spent so many years of my teaching life saying that I could probably be happy in any profession, that it’s not necessarily the profession that I love. But I realize that I have been fooling myself. Here’s another thing: One playful thing you can do in working with the tarot is to find your Soul Card. Take your birthday: Add the year to the month to the day. Mine is 1967+08+10=1985. Then add the digits together: 1+9+6+7=23. If it’s more than 22, add those together: 2+3=5. Your number, between 1 and 22, is your Soul Card. This is your soul’s work. It always bothered me that my Soul Card was The Hierophant, and I have sought out other, more helpful interpretations, and now, as I settle on my own extension of the meaning of this card as The Teacher, and realize that the vocation of Teacher is truly part of who I am, I can breathe a little better.

As I worked with the AI on this one, it was very important to me that my input would cause the AI to create the image in a natural setting because I think that the most pressing issue underlying everything we do and teach today must include a sense of the importance of knowing and protecting the Earth.


Gratitude List:
1. Settling into my vocation. When I have signed the paperwork, I will say more, but for now, I am deeply grateful and delighted to have found a teaching position for the fall!
2. Cool mid-June. I struggle with really difficult allergies from mid-May until mid-June, so during what are the most pleasant temperatures of the late spring, I keep indoors with doors and windows closed. When I emerge from the allergy fog, the season has usually turned hot. I am so grateful for these cooler days when I am emerging and able to live out of doors again.
3. Kindness. Tenderness. Gentleness.
4. Poppies. I still don’t have any of my own, but I LOVE walking and driving past other people’s gardens, especially when the poppies are blooming.
5. Truth. Veracity. Impeccability. People who can humbly speak what they know to be true without having to shift the narrative in order to defend or aggrandize themselves.
May we walk humbly, justly, and kindly, in Beauty!


“We are so brief. A one-day dandelion. A seedpod skittering across the ice. We are a feather falling from the wing of a bird. I don’t know why it is given to us to be so mortal and to feel so much. It is a cruel trick, and glorious.” —Louise Eldrich


“A man who does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good. And a man that does not know how to be shaken to his heart’s core with indignation over things evil is either a fungus or a wicked man.” —Henry Ward Beecher, social reformer and abolitionist (1813-1887)


Here’s the best way to see a thing: catch
the edge of light
that burns
around its opposite, that
which it would otherwise
obscure.
—Mark Bibbins


I saw you once, Medusa; we were alone.
I looked you straight in the cold eye, cold.
I was not punished, was not turned to stone.
How to believe the legends I am told? …

I turned your face around! It is my face.
That frozen rage is what I must explore—
Oh secret, self-enclosed, and ravaged place!
That is the gift I thank Medusa for.
—May Sarton, “The Muse as Medusa”


“How you get there is where you’ll arrive.” —The Mad Hatter


“When you look at what is happening to our world—and it is hard to look at what’s happening to our water, our air, our trees, our fellow species—it becomes clear that unless you have some roots in a spiritual practice that holds life sacred and encourages joyful communion with all your fellow beings, facing the enormous challenges ahead becomes nearly impossible.” —Joanna Macy


“We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal. That is what is happening as we see people honestly confronting the sorrows of our time.” —Joanna Macy


“And I consider myself a skeptic, but Lord, I’m an optimistic soul.” —Rising Appalachia

Holding the Boundaries

Art by Beth Weaver-Kreider and AI. Brightwing Tarot.

I’m trying not to engage in too wide-ranging a re-interpretation of the cards as I find my way through the Fool’s Wanderings in the tarot, so I want to be careful with cards like this one, which I have always found unsettling. The Fool leaves the arms of the nurturing Earth in the Empress/Matrix card, and now meets the Emperor. As I meditate on the meaning of this card and what the Fool needs to learn here, I find the martial and domineering nature of the Emperor to crunch too intensely against my own notions of peace and justice.

The Emperor is the boundary-setter, putting their own Will into the world and establishing the edges. Rather than interpreting this card as the selfish and greedy conquest of a power-hungry patriarch, I look at this boundary-setting as an incredibly important moment in the Fool’s learning process, when they realize they, too, deserve justice and respect. In my own recent crisis, I find that I must make a stop here in the land of The Protector (whom I might end up calling The Boundary-Setter), and relearn how to re-member my own boundaries, how to shore up the walls of my garden, and say, “This far, and no further. Here is my limit.”

And it IS a re-learning and a re-membering. It’s never a once and done thing. This Fool that is me has been here in this place before, learning about boundaries and protection of my insides. I thought I had completely aced this lesson in the past. Yet I find myself here again. Again. The assault on my inner realm this time has been more intense than I could have previously imagined. Time to re-learn this lesson. With the Emperor/Protector/Boundary-Setter, I say, “I will protect myself. I will hold fast to my inner truth and not feel shame.”

And this one pairs so beautifully with the work of The Matrix, in this case a binary pairing that dances together to form a deeper complexity. The life force of The Matrix is free of boundaries and rule-setting, and the soul force of The Protector creates healthy and safe boundaries. Too much of one or the other, and the Fool will lose her balance.

And how can I truly create brave and safe where others can feel belonging if I cannot protect my own inner world? One thing that the traditional Emperor does not seem to know how to do is to ask for help. I’m grateful to add that layer to my version of the card. This Protector knows how to ask for help in times of breached walls.

Here is my Emperor poem from several years ago. I find that it’s one of those moments when my own voice from the past has something to say to the me of the moment:

Setting the Intention
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

I will.
That should fill
the task list of the day.
Just say,
“I will.”

Then make that happen.
Make your will into a thing
Let it sing.
Give it ground.

Cast your boundaries around you:
east and south and west and north.
Go forth
and do your will.


Gratitude List:
1. Blue grosbeak. I know he makes my gratitude list every day now, but really, the sun twinkling off the deep cerulean of his feathers is such a revelation! I feel like Mother Mary is tapping me on the shoulder every time I see him. Such a Blue!
2. Safe and protected spaces, and the people who rush to help shore up the walls when they’ve been breached.
3. Father Richard Rohr’s words today on symbolic language for the journey of faith. I felt like he’d been watching my own story somehow. Powerful synchronicity.
4. Reclaiming my place.
5. So many Beloveds. You and you and you. Twice this past weekend, I met people in the flesh whom I have only known online, and I was so blessed to know and see their beauty in the real world. I can be really socially awkward, especially right now, but I love this sort of encounter! Balm to my soul.
May we walk in Beauty!


“Stars are an excellent medicine for homesick hearts.” —F W Boreham


“Radical simply means grasping things at the root.” ―Angela Davis


“If you put three or four disassociated ideas together, and created awkward relationships with them, the unconscious intelligence that comes from those pairings is really quite startling sometimes, quite provocative.” —David Bowie


“Dehumanizing others is the process by which we become accepting of violations against human nature, the human spirit, and, for many of us, violations against the central tenets of our faith.” —Brené Brown


“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only [s]he who sees, takes off [her] shoes.”
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning


“I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the Ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the Creation.” —Oren Lyons


“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed—to be seen, heard, and companioned exactly as it is.” —Parker J. Palmer


“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ―Maya Angelou


This is how I would die
into the love I have for you:
As pieces of cloud
dissolve in sunlight. ―Rumi


Werifesteria: To wander longingly through the woods in search of mystery. (No one seems to know if this is an actual Old English word, as the internet says, but I don’t really care. It’s a word now.)


“Keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive” ―Martha Graham


“When Paul said, ‘Help those women who labor with me in the Gospel,’ he certainly meant that they did more than pour out tea.” ―Julia Foote


In Japanese (again, according to the internet), tsundoku means, “the act of buying books and not reading them, leaving them to pile up.”

Mater and Matrix

So, the Fool has embarked upon adventure–unprepared but winsomely present to each moment on the road–has learned the elemental mysteries of the universe from the Medium, and has studied wisdom and lore from the Secret Keeper. The next two characters the Fool meets are usually called The Empress and The Emperor. By renaming the Empress Matrix, I haven’t actually managed to entirely pull this character out of the gender binary, for matrix is the source, the womb from which we are born, the fertile Earth, the rock bed on which crystals are formed. This is the birth-giver, the bringer of life: fecund, nurturing, fruitful, generative. The German word mater, from which we get the word mother, comes from the Latin matrix.

This Matrix, unlike Neo’s computer simulation, is the source of all life, the life force that pushes dandelions through concrete and pulls forth the greening of the spring, draws forth the flower, and brings flower to fruit. Then the Matrix locks up that life force into the hard shell of the seed to begin the cycle all over again.

After acquiring knowledge and power from Medium and Secret Keeper, the Fool must take time to grow, and to carefully observe the cycles of life, to feel the Life Force that feeds the Fool’s own self. The Fool learns to tend and nurture life force in the presence of the Matrix.

Here is a poem I wrote several years ago about The Empress:

Message from the Empress
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

In the grove over the ridge, the trees
have broken into a flourish of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet green,
a thousand mouths seeking a drink.

Let us riot too.
Let us fill our thirst.

Let us spread our blooming fingers,
opening our mouths and hearts, dancing
away ruin with bloom, lingering
with simple beauty, with aching fragrance.

Let us waft.
Let us be wanton.


The Matrix/Empress has no time for rule-making about bodies. Here is where the Fool learns about Embodiment, about Being a Body. Unlike certain strains of Buddhism and Christianity that stress transcending or mortifying the body in order to reach enlightenment or purity, The Matrix knows that the body is pure and right and holy. “Your body is a temple,” we were told in Sunday School, and were expected to hide and contain and control it. “Your body is a temple,” says The Matrix, “and it is meant to be celebrated and inhabited and experienced.”

How do you experience life in a body? Is it painful? Uncomfortable? Shameful? Joyful? Ecstatic? Primal? What meditations and movements, what breathing and noticing, can you do to more fully experience the deep sense of belonging in a body?


Gratitude List:
1. People who get it, who understand your story even when you need to speak around silent spaces. People who See you even when you feel like parts of you have become invisible.
2. Textile arts, particularly crocheting and knitting–how amazing that we can take one or two little sticks, and a piece of string, and make such amazing things? Knot and twist. There’s a life lesson in that, isn’t there?
3. Wood thrushes calling in the woods at Sam Lewis Park this evening.
4. Disc Golf. I didn’t play because we only have two sets of discs, but it was such a delight walking through the course as the boys played. Child 2 said to Child 1, “You’ll have to hurry up and get your license so we can do this whenever we want!”
5. Blue grosbeak, a constant visual presence at the feeder, and oriole, a constant aural presence in the holler.
May we walk in Beauty!


“If you feel thirsty, then
drink from your cup.
The birds will keep singing
until they wake up.”
—Franz Wright


“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” —attributed to Buddha and to Nelson Mandela


“Let fury have the hour.
Anger can be power.
D’you know that you can use it?”
–The Clash


“In order to write the book you want to write, in the end you have to become the person you need to become to write that book.”
― Junot Díaz


“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”
― Stephen King


“let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences”
― Sylvia Plath

The Happy Medium

After setting out on the journey into the woods, or to the cliff’s edge, or through the deep and shadowy valley, the Fool encounters a series of individuals, wise mentors who offer the Fool help, advice, skills, and wisdom.

The first of these is traditionally called The Magician or Mage. I like the term Mage, because it reminds me of the three Magi of the legends that came from the “wise men from the east” who visited the Christ Child. I am also enamored of Madeleine L’Engle’s Happy Medium, who can see into the patterns of the cosmos. For now, I am calling this one the Medium. This advisor to the Fool has ready access to all the tools of water, earth, air, and fire, and has a deep spiritual capability to visualize the change they wish to see in the world, and then the inner fortitude to make it happen. The Mage or Medium doesn’t just let life happen to them; they happen to life. So the Fool, who has set out without any real planning or purpose other than adventure, receives here the training to develop a vision, to make a plan, to create what they want in the world.

I feel a little like I am the Fool seeking the Medium’s wisdom right now. How can I use the skills and tools that I have to draw to myself the Next Thing? How can I put my own thoughts and ideas into the world, envision a future, plan for what I want, and make it happen? All while maintaining the winsomeness of the Fool.


Here is a poem about Magic, for the Magician:

The Magic of Language
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Listen to the wisdom of the sage.
“What is language, but a kind of magic?
Here am I, in my own organism, my tower of Self,
and you there in your own lonely keep,
and how shall we bridge the gap between us
but by language? These webs of sound
we string together, we cast them through sky,
drawing out threads of meaning,
as with a wand, fiery threads of sense.

“We build this bridge on air,
scratch symbols on a page with feathers,
and stories flow like water between us,
borne on gossamer strands
of word on word on word.
We manage and tend our loneliness
by weaving cloths of language.
How can we find each other in the shadow
but for the flow of speech we offer
and the magic of these words upon the page?


Gratitude List:
1. Well duh! That was no indigo bunting! It was a blue grosbeak. I should have known that. I’ve seen and identified both in recent years. But my brain blipped, much as it does when it mistakenly equivocates unequivocable things in math-world. So yay! Blue Grosbeak!
2. I love Kindergarten! I love the stories. I love the shining eyes. I love the wiggliness. I love the dreaminess. I love the restfulness. I love Miss Nikki and Miss Abby, and I love being Miss Beth.
3. Putting Difficult Things behind me. No, I’m not going to start repressing Big Feelings, but you can only spend so long looking at the devastation of the wildfire before you start to clean up and replant and rebuild.
4. Foreacre Furfamily! We HAD to do something about the barn kittens yesterday. This is the second time a cat has given birth in the barn (that we know of). I think people drop off their cats at farms, and then the feral population burgeons. Last night we had a near tragedy involving some of the kittens and a mower, so we put out the call for someone to come take the kittens and the Foreacres responded! They have all five kittens safely cared for, and they even took the mama after we trapped her, so she can be fixed. I love people who care for animals.
5. Energy. Today is the first time in a long time that I haven’t felt a pressing need for a nap.
May we walk in Beauty!

*#4 is really a rant. Please DON’T abandon your animals at farms in the country. Yes, there are mice in the barn for a feral cat to eat, but there are also bird’s nests all over the woods, and baby bunnies, and we want to enjoy the birds and the bunnies. And when you abandon your cat, someone else will have to be responsible for dealing with the offspring, and for getting the animal fixed.


“The Word is not a pet. The Word is the wildness behind creation, the terror of a black hole, the atomic violence of burning hydrogen within a sun.” —Madeleine L’Engle


“I stand before what is with an open heart. And with an open heart, I dwell in possibility.” —Macrina Weiderkehr


“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
― Ida B. Wells-Barnett


“Somewhere in the world there is a treasure that has no value to anyone but you, and a secret that is meaningless to everyone except you, and a frontier that possesses a revelation only you know how to exploit. Go in search of those things.

Somewhere in the world there is a person who could ask you the precise question you need to hear in order to catalyze the next phase of your evolution. Do what’s necessary to run into that person.” —Rob Breszny


“Pain travels through families until someone is ready to feel it.” —Stephi Wagner


“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?” ―George Orwell


“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, that person sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” —Robert F Kennedy


“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil it multiplies it.” —Martin Luther King Jr


“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.” —Frederick Douglass


“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.” ―Jane Goodall

The Fool Sets Off

The Fool Sets Off On the Journey, Brightwing Tarot

In the tarot, that ancient tool for exploring the journey to the center of the self, the Fool sets off on a journey. She’s naive and eager to court adventure. He’s unafraid of dangers that may lie in his path. They dance on the edge of the cliff, follow the trail of butterflies, and seek out that which is fresh and new and exciting. Anything could happen, yes, but anything COULD happen! With Walt Whitman, the Fool sings: “Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, / Strong and content, I travel the travel the open road!”

This is how the fairy tale begins. You are the golden child, innocent, hopeful, full of promise. Tabula rasa, a blank slate. Anything can happen.

You live on the edge of a great wood, a forest beautiful and terrifying. You live in a warm, inviting cottage. In a poor but tidy little hut. In a fine and well-appointed house. In a castle. In a dirty, ramshackle hovel. In a high tower.

With warm, nurturing, and protective parents, or a family struck by despair and dysfunction. With a gentle and forgetful grandmother. With your father, a benevolent but distant king, and his wife, a smothering overprotector. With the vain and hostile wife of your loving but absent father, a traveling merchant. With a terrible witch who stole you from your family. With a kind witch who has rescued you from your suffering.

One thread runs through all the tales: You are admonished not to go into the forest alone. There is a set boundary, a garden, a lane, a wall—a line that you must, for your own safety, never cross. For the wood, while full of calling birds and bright butterflies, can also be a place of fear and danger, where a child could be lost or eaten by wolves. Both the beauties and the dangers are very real.

And the wood is exactly the place that your adventure must take you, for the forest is the landscape of your own adult life. Perhaps, like Red Riding Hood, you made your first steps into this wood on your own with the firm and gentle guidance of a loving parent who gently set you on the most known pathway. Perhaps, like Hansel and Gretel or Vasilissa the Brave, you were set into the wood without supplies or direction, pushed out of childhood innocence before you were ready. Maybe, like Goldilocks, you followed a trail of bright flowers or a shining ray of sunlight into the wood, against all the cautions of the adults in your life, and your own curiosity drew you into the trees.

Aunt Eliza’s Advice for Lost Children
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Once upon a time there lived a golden child
who followed a trail of bright flowers
deep into the heart of the forest.

That’s you, in case you hadn’t picked it up,
and the forest is the life you are wandering in.
This is the story you chose for your own
in those rainbow days before you were born.

Oh, for most of us, and much of the time,
the forest is fairly navigable, and not too scary.
But sometimes we get caught in the brambles,
overwhelmed by the shadows, befriended
by suave and creepy fellows in wolfskin.

We forget how to find our way,
forget that we are the main character,
the child of the glorious day,
forget our identity,
forget our destiny, our star
forget how to follow our guides,
forget who they are.

So step into the clearing, Dearies.
Have a seat by the fire.
Here’s a little advice:

Keep following the flowers,
the butterflies, the little birds,
whatever drew you in here in the first place.

Go ahead and flirt with the wolves,
but don’t give them Grandma’s address.

Breaking and entering is still
breaking and entering, Sweetie,
even if it’s a cute little cottage.
You never know what’s in the oatmeal.

Listen to the doll your mother gave you.
Your mother’s voice inside yourself
will always lead you true.

Beware of riddling with old women.
Always remember your manners,
and always be kinder than necessary.

There’s a happily-ever-after
right around the bend,
but you might have to travel
half a lifetime and complete
three impossible tasks
to reach it.


More Advice from Aunt Eliza
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

It doesn’t always have to be so,
but it seems to be the way things go:

When the sunny trail ends at that dead ash tree,
when the sweet-scented grasses turn to brambles,
when the radiant butterfly flits into shadows
and out from behind the tree pads the wolf–

That is when the story really gets started.

Epiphany can be those shiny angels,
those glittering kings bearing gold,
but it also comes in shadows and cobwebs.

One day you are sleep-walking
through your dreamy life,
not paying attention to where the path leads,
and epiphany comes in the form of a crow,
calling your name from the topmost branch
of a lightning-struck oak.

Or you find the sweet cottage
but wake up surrounded by bears
or tossed head-first into the furnace.

Or an old woman in tatters and rags
swoops into the clearing, chattering,
demanding to know who you think you are,
demanding your service, your heart.

And that’s the key, isn’t it?
Who do you think you are, meddling in this story?
Can you give your whole heart to the process?
What are you doing here, in the heart of this forest,
this landscape of your life?
What is your real name?
Are you ready to fight for it?
To go on a quest, answer the riddle,
do the three impossible tasks,
risk your own dissolution, your death,
just to claim it as your own?

You thought you were so brave,
following the path to explore the woods,
though you’d been warned,
though your skin prickled,
though you knew the stories
of those who never returned.

Now is the time for bravery.
Now is the time for fierce
uncompromising joy.
Now the real exploration begins.


Gratitude List:
1. Symbols for the journey
2. Good coffee
3. Art-gallery-hopping
4. Adventure
5. Fairy Tales
May we walk in Wonder!


“One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your own sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.” —K.L. Toth


“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” —Oscar Wilde


“Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.” —St. Bernard of Clairvaux


“A woman with opinions had better develop a thick skin and a loud voice.” —Anya Seton


“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” —Alexandra K.Trenfor


“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living, I want to know what you ache for. It doesn’t interest me how old you are, I want to know if you are willing to risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine. It doesn’t interest me where you live or how rich you are, I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and be sweet to the ones you love. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and truly like the company you keep in the empty moments of your life.” —Oriah Mountain Dreamer


The Bridge

In a trivial gesture, in a greeting,
in the simple glance, directed
in flight toward other eyes,
a golden, a fragile bridge is constructed.
This alone is enough.

Although it is only for a moment, it exists, exists.
This alone is enough.
—Circe Maia
translation from the Spanish by Jesse Lee Kercheval


“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” ―Roald Dahl


“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” ―Mary Oliver


“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” ―Vonnegut