The Pursuit of Happiness

Sometimes I write posts for others, and sometimes I am mostly writing for myself. This post is mainly something I am writing for myself to sort out my own thoughts. Happiness is probably one of the most discussed topics for mankind through all times. It’s also a concept which many have tried to explain. One of my favorite quotes related to happiness is from the philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau:

Happiness requires three things, a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.

What I like about this quote is that it says nothing explicitly about what happiness is, only three things which are required for it without really being too specific. Still it is simple and easy to understand.

In modern times, the ideology of individualism has gotten an increased importance. My argument is that it began after the 2nd World War when the shock from the two world wars was over and the economy was growing again in Europe. Groups which used to be marginalized got increased individual rights and the possibility to take place in and be heard in a society which traditionally had been ruled by white men. Welfare increased, I am not saying without any issues, but the argument here is that with better economy, social and technological advances it became easier for everyone to break out of the homogenous society and eventually a diverse society of individuals evolved. So before any group that feels marginalized cries out, I realize that many groups think they are quite far from reaching their end goal, but at least we have come quite a long way since the starting point for many of them.

The point here though is about happiness. And my argument is that with the increased diversity and individualism, the idea of what happiness is about, is also more diverse than before. And the focus on the individual has just continued to increase together with advances in technology and economy in particular. What I find interesting though, is that suddenly happiness, for many, doesn’t seem to be that simple anymore that it could fit with that simple quote by Rousseau.

               The Modern Idea of Happiness?

The world has most definitely changed with social media. Those of us who have chosen (is it really a choice for many of us though?) to be on social media are constantly bombarded with impressions and statements from every possible direction. At the same time most people try to make a portrait of themselves as successful as possible. The right selfie at the right time is important to us now. Some people are even risking their lives for the likes they get on social media, just so that they can get recognition by others, because that is what brings happiness nowadays, right?

Apparently the worst insult you can say to someone nowadays is: “there is nothing unique about you.”

Today perhaps this version of Rousseau’s happiness would be more fitting:

Happiness requires three things, a good bank account (as long as you can show off your prosperity to others), a good cook (remember to document what, when and where you ate), and a good digestion (be sure to express how healthy and well you feel now with a smile).

I guess most looked over to their neighbour in the past, but I don’t think we have compared ourselves to others as much as we are doing today than anytime before.

So am I going to be that one guy who tries to tell you to get your act together and live a simpler life? Most certainly not. That might work for some people, but for us knowledge seekers who would like to understand the world, it is not a satisfying answer. It must be broken down further so we can understand it.

I don’t think it is possible to find happiness as long as the main focus in on happiness itself. In search for their own happiness many seek to have ambitions. As long as they reach their ambitions, they think that will be satisfied and live a happy life. Then when they fulfill their ambition and realize it does not hold up to their expectations, they realize that they are still not content. Don’t misunderstand me and think that being unambitious can remedy it. Ambition has its uses, but they are not for the pursuit of happiness itself. What I mean is that we are building up our Ego, which is a false self. The Ego can never be satisfied or be content over time. It will always desire more or desire what is lost and cannot be retrieved again.  Therefore the Ego is an enemy of happiness.

To free oneself from that and “live a simpler life” is not a simple thing to do. It may mean accepting one’s fate, in the sense that there are circumstances outside of our own control, and that we may have to accept some rather uncomfortable truths in our lives. With social media we seem to have raised the expectations of what we can achieve beyond what’s reasonable.

Having a decent economy so that they can eat healthy and enjoy good health are things that most people in the western world can achieve. It’s fairly basic, but it only relates to things that you to some extent have control over. It does not involve other people with different agendas, which will happen when the desires gets more complicated.

            What can the tarot teach us about happiness?

Tarot is of course not a tool that will guide you to a simple path on your way to happiness, but if used correctly, as the tool that it is, it can challenge you to question some parts of your self that might be counterproductive.

This is why I find it so repulsive when people try to lighten up the tarot or even remove the darker aspects of it. I just don’t subscribe to this endless well of positivity that seems to be quite popular in big parts of the New Age or Alternative Movement.

On the other hand it can be equally annoying with people claiming that difficult situations are just a part of a growth process.

I don’t think the tarot is about any of that. It attempts to tell the whole story as it is. What is, simply is. It’s purely descriptive and it is our job to interpret it. If you go through the Major Arcana, you can put together quite a dramatic story. It has been done before and popularized  through the “Fool’s Journey”.  Some people put a lot of emphasis on it and like to teach beginners, because it makes it a little easier to remember what’s going on in the Major Arcana. I am not sure about its origins, but I think it is a fairly modern invention. Some people like it, some people don’t. The point is that it tells the story of the spiritual development of a character with all its ups and downs.

I am personally quite fond of Søren Kierkegaard’s three stages of existance: the aesthetic stage, the ethical stage and the religious stage of life. You can be content in any of these stages, but Kierkegaard’s argument is that it is not something stable that will be lasting in the first two stages. According to him you need to take a leap of faith and enter the religious stage before you can become truly happy. Kierkegaard was a Christian, so for him it was an attempt to explain why Christianity was important. I don’t think that following Christianity or any other religion is the correct way to happiness, but I do think that they offer some kind of spirituality that will allow people to deal with the hardships of life.

The Major Arcana can be split up into 3 equal parts 1-7, 8-14 and 15-21. The Fool is left out, as it is both the beginning and the end. I think it is quite plausible to add Kierkegaard’s three stages to them. The religious stage would be the last of the three categories as this is the part that deals with existensial crisis and spiritual questions. It is here that some of the darkest cards of the tarot appear such as The Devil and the Tower. On the other hand, it is also here that some of the most positive cards appear such as the Star and the Sun, and at the end The World (I prefer the Universe).

So how can tarot really help us towards happiness? It reminds us that there are no shortcuts to the ultimate goal. Once we accept who we are and focus on our own journey or development all these other factors or disturbances don’t really matter anymore. It forces you to accept that there will be some hardships, but also better times. Accepting both are equally important. It is impossible to be happy if everything needs to be perfect all the time, but it is also impossible to find happiness without hope or the celebrations of some achievements. Tarot is of course not necessary, but it is a tool that can be used as a reminder for or as a guide to self development. It is easy to get distracted towards something else without a focus point. As stated in the article I linked to above: “Kierkegaard believed one should look to oneself and in that relationship look to Christ as the example instead of looking at others because the more you look at others the less you see of yourself.”

It’s also important to keep in mind that it is just a tool. As the Chinese proverb says: “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.”

 

                                  Closing Words

I don’t think my thoughts here are either new or revolutionary. Yet we seem to live an age where people look more to others than ever before rather than concentrating on themselves. This kind of ego-driven individualism where it is more important to look good in the eyes of everyone else is counterproductive and in some cases even dangerous. There are so many bad things coming with it such as virtue signaling and political correctness, which can be a very dangerous unless the values that are being promoted are sometimes questioned. I think we need diversity. Accepting something, does not mean that it has to be something you agree with or something that you like.

If everyone looks to others for their own happiness and need their acknowledgement for it, then I don’t think it is possible to ever become truly happy. We also end up being very similar to one another and most likely trying to put on our brave masks in public, while in reality we probably (at some point at least) feel quite empty inside.

Rousseau was right, you don’t really need much more than a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.

-Thus Spake the Night Spirit

Sjusjøen

Have you ever been out in nature all by yourself and felt like the wind, the trees and the animals are trying to tell you the same story, but all in their own unique way? 

 

 

How the tarot has helped me in unexpected ways

I never really liked the term tarot master, because it gives you the idea that there is some kind of ladder involved that you can climb to improve your skills. It is true that you can improve your skills and knowledge of the tarot, but it is nearly impossible to measure it.  I suppose it is quite measureable to analyze your hit/miss right for divinations, but is that all that counts?

It is my belief, that the more skilled you become with the tarot, the more you realize that divination is only a small part of what you can do with it. Reading about it and continuing working with it will in itself be rewarding.

When I picked up my first tarot deck it was of course the divination that I found the most exciting. Let’s be honest, it is probably the most exciting work you can do in the short term. You get an instant answer to your question and you may get feedback from clients. In this day and age where we live with social media and are used to get constant confirmation of our ego by others, it feels very good to feel that rush from a successful divination and positive feedback from an inspired patron.

I don’t deny that is fun and a great feeling, but if someone would ask me what my most valuable experiences with the tarot would be, it would not be those divination sessions. It would probably be the knowledge that I know I can acquire if I am willing to commit to keep studying and using the tarot. For example, if I take the fool card and ask myself how can I apply the ideas from this card into my life?

My answer to that is that it reminds me that I can allow myself to approach situations in life with a childlike curiosity and allow myself to make some mistakes while learning something new. It does not mean that I should be careless and irresponsible, but most of the time making some mistakes doesn’t really matter that much. And in many cases you will also learn from them and improve your skill.

When I first started out with tarot, I did not realize that you can get valuable lessons or advice from the tarot just by contemplating. It can be done with any card in the deck and it gets even more interesting when you put together cards that belong together. The lessons you gain from that can take a long time to comprehend though. When I did that for “The other part of Venus” post I wrote, I had no idea that it would take me a year to even get a grasp on how to approach the next part of the post. And I am not even sure if I have understood enough yet to write out the second part quite yet.

For me at least that is one of the deeper and more profound experiences that I have had with tarot.

I have also attempted to use tarot in spirit communication and felt that it has been a good tool for me to have there. Particularly, because I am not a person who tend to have a lot of visions or hear voices. I suppose this is not quite an unexpected way, but I included it anyway.

I also believe that you don’t really need to be particularly spiritual to benefit from tarot. It’s basically a deck full of ideas and can help to map out a difficult situation and challenge you to try and see something from different angles. I can understand though that it will be difficult for someone who isn’t all that spiritual to use a tool that is heavily connected to spirituality. But it can be done.

If you haven’t tried to use tarot for something else than divination, just give it a chance. Maybe the results will surprise you.

-Thus spake the Night Spirit

Tarotkort

 

 

The other sides of Venus – part 1

In these posts I will have a look at the three cards from the Major Arcana connected to the sphere of Venus and examine them together. Those three cards are III – The Empress, V – The Hierophant and XI – Justice (alternatively VIII – Adjustment). Please note that these posts will be rather experimental.

What I want to achieve with this exercise is to show that there are other sides to Venus than what a lot of people realize. A lot of people only think of the Empress card and what is traditionally connected to that card when they think of Venus. That is obviously not wrong, but my opinion is there is a whole lot more to Venus than that.

In the Orphic Hymns there is one hymn dedicated to Justice, which I think describes the relationship between some parts of Venus quite well. The tarot card Justice is linked to Venus through Libra. These are the last few lines of that hymn:

Hear, O goddess.

rightly shatter wicked men,

so that mortals who eat

of the fruits of the earth

and also all living creatures

nursed in the bosom

of Earth, the divine mother,

nursed in the bosom of sea-dwelling Zeus,

may follow a path

both balanced and noble.

First it speaks of the shattering of wicked men. This shattering does not happen for the sake of shattering wickedness alone. It has a very concrete function. It works this way to make way for that all living creatures can enjoy the fruits of the earth in peace. And that brings to me to one important aspect of the Justice card.

Aleister Crowley decided to rename the Justice card for his Thoth deck and in the Book of Thoth he makes some reasonable arguments for it. Justice as such, is a very human concept, and to be fair we humans don’t really do the best job of agreeing exactly what justice is. Therefore he renamed the card to “Adjustment” and argued that “nature isn’t just, but it adjust.” What is meant by that is quite simply that everything has a cause and an effect. Essentially this is a way to understand what karma is. You make a small push on something and it can set a chain of effects in motion. When you pour a bowl of water over a stone, the water adjusts and moves around the stone, because such are the laws of nature. And it is this mechanism of cause and effect that the Justice card really describes. Maybe it is putting a little bit too much into the Justice card to have it as a personified idea. At least, I think so. But it does fit in quite well with the hymn and the other qualities of Venus.

If you picture yourself a kingdom, your own if you like, the traditional role of Venus is associated with the production of all kinds (fertility, fruitfullness etc.) within the kingdom. The role of Justice in this case would be to ensure that any kind of production at all can take place. Mars would be protecting the kingdom towards any external threats, but Justice is also helping keeping the kingdom together internally. Not necessarily through formal laws, but through norms and even natural selection.

In Galatians 6 in the Bible there is a famous quote “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Also here there the idea of karma (in the sense of cause and effect) is linked to production. And, I really do not think it is random. Although, the Bible does of course not make any such links to Venus explicitly. Christianity made sure to remove any practices related to celebrating earth and fertility, which is one reason that many pagan traditions still lived on, but that is entirely another discussion.

Although Venus has been associated with friendship, love and so on, it also has a more raw and unforgiving side to it. Karma can at times be quite brutal. It isn’t something beautiful, but it is necessary to keep order. Without it, it would be difficult for all living creatures to enjoy the fruits of the earth as described in the hymn. It is also the mechanism behind evolution and the survival of the fittest. Mother Nature isn’t just (at least she doesn’t feel that way to humans), but she adjusts all the time. Also notice how the hymn ends with the words “balanced” and “noble”. Mother Nature always seek balance.

I will stop here for now, and I have yet to talk about the Hierophant which is linked to Venus through Taurus. Let me know your thoughts in the comments where you think this card fits into all of this. I have some ideas, which I will need to refine a little for the next post. It has been a challenging, but nice exercise this far…

-Thus spake the Night Spirit

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The Empress, the Hierophant and Adjustment from the Thoth deck.

Beyond the darkened skies

Tarot is in my experience a rather unforgiving tool. It will try and force you to be honest with yourself and your situation whether you like it or not. And that is probably why it by some people has received a darker reputation. Some people try to remedy that by creating decks where all the cards have had their negative meanings removed. I don’t agree with that at all. Cards like the Tower, the Devil, the 9 and 10 of Swords etc all have their uses. Rather than trying to remove the negative message that these bring I think it is more important to meet them with acceptance and an open mind.

Even if one or more of these mentioned cards reveal themselves in a tarot spread, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a looming disaster around the corner. That is probably number one to remember when these appear. The second thing is of course that they can appear very dramatic and the message they bring is often not the most positive. The Tower for example has probably the most sinister reputation of all the tarot cards. Usually it is pictured by a tower in a thunderstorm struck down by a lightning strike. Many people are frightened by thunderstorms too and it is not so difficult to understand why when you experience these powerful forces of nature. They often tend to focus on its destructive forces though. I rather see it as a tension that has been built up which finally gets its release. After the thunderstorm the air feels so fresh again. And I think it is the same when the Tower finds its way into a tarot reading. The cards are always meant to be read together to create a context (a reason why I am not very fond of one card readings).

The Tower is attributed to the planet Mars, which has resolution through conflict as one of its domains. The keyword here is resolution, not conflict. The conflict is just a method to find a resolution. Sometimes there can be other ways to find that resolution, but sometimes you find yourself in a deadlock and the solution comes through some kind of conflict. The tarot was never designed to deal with people’s everyday problems, even though it can help out with that. There is so much more to it. On a grander scale for example you can see how The Emperor relates to the Tower through the martian energies – the ruler that goes to war to settle a dispute.

My point is that I think it is more constructive to try and understand the forces in the cards and  what kind of function they have in the universe. Once that is understood, it is also easier to relate to the cards on a more personal level in a tarot spread. When you realize that it has a function and although it might not be pleasant, the universe did not put it there to make your life miserable or more difficult.

I freely admit that I was not thrilled when the Death card appeared in my own yearly spread for 2018. I did not like it back in January, and I still don’t like it now that it is May. I feel somewhat resistant to any grand changes in my life right now, but maybe something happens so I don’t get to choose during the summer period. And if that happens I only have the option to accept it, transform and adapt. But I am not thrilled about it – even if it long term would benefit me. Short term it sounds like a lot of work and hassle. It’s just how things are. That’s the thing though, while it doesn’t mean that everything will go all south for me, it doesn’t mean that I need to embrace it and be all excited about any changes either. It could be something quite neutral.

And I think that is a very viable option when those difficult cards appear – to accept that it doesn’t have to be all black and white, good or bad. It’s so very human of us to feel the need to relate to something as either good  or bad for us. It’s so coded into us that when we learn a new language some of the first words we learn are “Yes” and “No” and “Good” and “Bad”. As you get more proficient in a language more opportunities open up to express yourself in a more complex way and gain deeper understanding. And that is how tarot works too. In a way, it is its own symbolic language.

-Thus spake the Night Spirit

Darkened skies

The evening skies at home…

Why I don’t like reversed cards

There are a lot of opinions about the use of reversed cards in various tarot communities. Some people like them and some people don’t. In general those who use them think you might miss out on half the deck if you don’t use them and those who do not use them either think they are too negative or make it too complicated. I don’t use them either, but for a very different reason and here is why.

In all tarot decks you have the four suits corresponding to each element fire, water, air and earth. Sometimes they differ in name. For example wands may be called scepters, pentacles may be called coins or disks etc, but they still represent the element of fire and earth. That is not something random. The tarot is designed around these elements and how they interact with each other. Some elements are hostile towards each other and would influence each other negatively such as for example fire/water or air/earth. So when you have cards next to each other in a spread, you can see which elements are influencing the others either positively/negatively or in a neutral way. If you have three cards for instance you would then look at the card in the middle to determine how it is influenced by the elements to its left and right.

So, if you have one fire card in the middle with two water cards next to it, it would be influenced negatively by the element of water. This could mean that the meaning of the fire card is weaker or that it takes on a more negative meaning similar to that of a reversed card. It is called looking at the cards’ “Elemental Dignities”.

Another benefit of this method is that it forces the tarot reader to look at the relationships between the cards. This is a good thing and a good habit to develop for tarot readers. A lot of readers who start out find that to be troublesome, but when you make a habit of using a method that will force you to look at the cards in relation to each other you will naturally develop that skill faster than if you do not practice it.

In short, there is already a system place within the tarot to determine if the card meanings are positively or negatively influenced that will also encourage you to get good reading habits and look at the relations between the cards, so what then, is really the need for reversed cards? And in my opinion, it is much easier to learn than how to use reversed cards.

-Thus spake the Night Spirit

Reversal

A few random cards from the Arcanum Tarot

 

I don’t want to miss a thing!

All tarot readers secretly live by the title of this Aerosmith song. It hurts both our pride and self confidence when we aren’t spot on with our readings, but the fact is that it happens to all of us. No matter how good we are.

The question is then how to handle it. The first step is to accept that we cannot always be right. We need to be open for that we might have missed a clue, misinterpreted a card and so on. There is a big but here though, and that is that even if that is the case, it is still us as tarot readers who need to be in control of the situation. It is our reading, our mistakes, and it is not up to our clients to tell us how we should have or could have interpreted our own reading. So don’t invite them to do that.

The second step is to realize that it isn’t as easy as it sounds to admit a mistake. Pride is often in the way both for the tarot reader and the client. It is not uncommon to come up with ideas that the client will not relate to immediately. Perhaps they don’t sit on all the information for it to make sense yet as events may be revealed to them in time. It can be particularly tricky if the client is just after getting a confirmation of how they think or wish something should be. So before you admit to doing a mistake it would be wise to at least map out the situation and find out whether the client is that type of client or not.

If the answer is no and the client seem pretty open-minded about the reading, but it still seems completely off to them, it is time to open up for the possibility that you as a reader might not have the best day. And you need to allow yourself to not have the best day every single day. It’s not a defeat. The best advice would probably be to politely ask them to reschedule for another reading at a later point. Don’t try to do a new reading then and there. That would be extremely awkward for you when you miss a second time. If the client doesn’t accept it, offer them a refund, if you take payments for your readings. If you are being polite and humble about it many will show empathy and try to understand you. If you slander someone for being honest, polite and humble about a mistake I would argue that the problem does not lie with you. So if you can manage to be humble and polite then you are less likely to take a reputation hit as well.

In classical magic there are strict protocols for when and how various beings can be contacted. Usually there is always a specific time window when contact needs to be established based on astrology, where you are in the lunar cycle, time of the day and so on. If you are into esoteric tarot, you might want to have a tarot journal where you log these events as it potentially also could influence your tarot readings. After a while maybe you will find a pattern for when you have on or off days. Unlike the books of old, it will not tell you when the best time for a tarot reading is. So here you are left to do your own research for the best timings.

The third and final step is to not dwell on what happened. You need to move on. Perhaps it is best to take a break for that day, but don’t let it discourage you from taking on new clients. Your confidence will come back with the next good tarot reading.

-Thus spake the Night Spirit

clouds-cold-dark-540518

Another mountain to overcome.

Signifier cards – are they worth it?

This question pops up every once in a while for tarot readers. Should I or should I not be using signifier cards? There are many ways of how to decide what signifier cards to use,  I prefer to pick one of the court cards that I think suits best with the client’s personality, but I will not go into detail of this method here.

Most of the time when I am doing tarot readings I use a spread called the Opening of the Key. It is standard for that spread to use a signifier, but even when I use some of the more popular tarot spreads I prefer to have one. Probably I use it in 9 out of 10 readings.

A lot of people are concerned that when they use a signifier card they will take a card out of the deck and therefore potentially miss out on information. I reject that idea. By choosing a signifier card I get a focal point for my reading and all the cards that I draw will somehow be related to the signifier card. Sometimes I can even get clues depending on where the other cards are located compared to the signifier card. Perhaps it is looking backwards towards the past or maybe forwards towards the future or maybe you see a father looking over his son like a guardian? There are many possibilities when using them.

I think it gives the reading an extra depth that would not have been possible if I had not been using a signifier card. The benefits of it outweigh the cons by a great deal. In my experience it can be the difference between a hit or a miss when doing a reading. If you have not tried it, I encourage you to try it out. It is not complicated and I think it helps to give a reading more structure.

 

-Thus spake the Night Spirit

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Court cards of fire and air from the Tarot of Stars Eternal