The Nine of Wands, Buddhist Emotions, and Having Sex While We’re Water Skiing

On the emotional nature of ideas.

In the Tarot, each suit of the minor arcana represents a different realm of the human experience.  Cups represent emotions, pentacles are physical possessions, swords are energy, and wands are the intellectual realm of ideas.

At first glance, we’d hardly associate the Nine of Wands with ideas at all.  A man stands there clutching a wand, a fearful, almost paranoid look on his face, and a bandage tied around his forehead.  He looks like he came out on the losing end of a bar fight much more than he looks like he’s swarming with ideas.

When we  stop for a moment and ponder just exactly what ideas really are, though, the card starts to make sense.  We all have thoughts – a  LOT of them – from the moment that we wake up in the morning until the moment that we fall asleep.  Some meditators call our thoughts, “the mind stream,” because they feel like an endless stream constantly rushing along from one point to the next to the next.

And, let’s face it – many, if not most of them, really aren’t worth much.  The Buddhists talk about, “monkey mind,” which basically means that our minds are like monkeys jumping randomly from one branch to another, with no particular order or meaning.  Rather than having truly great thoughts, our thoughts are more like:

-did I turn off the coffee pot?

-why is the cat crying?

-remember to buy more cat food.

-what am I making for dinner tonight?

– should I wear brown socks?

-who invented toast?

-I think I’m a little hung over.

-where’s the alka seltzer?

-remember to buy alka seltzer when you get the cat food.

All of those thoughts occur in mere seconds and they go on like that all day, every day.  Most of our thoughts, then, are just immediate, fleeting responses to whatever’s happening in our environments at any given moment.

There are, of course, more organized thoughts that we generate with problem solving activities.  That’s where we sit down and really concentrate on how we’re going to get from point A to point B, how we’re going to get through work activities or budget enough money to pay the rent.  How to organize our shopping lists and plan meals before we go to the grocery store.  What we’re going to say at a business presentation and how to prioritize the points that we want to make.

Yet another type of thought is what we could call intuition, where an idea or a notion just seems to pop up out of nowhere.  We may be shocked or surprised or delighted by an intuition because it frequently has little in common with our usual thinking patterns and provides us with a whole new way of looking at a problem or even life in general.  When someone asked Einstein how he’d come up with the theory of relativity, he said that it, “just dropped in,” while he was playing the piano.  Intuition may occur as a thought but there’s no feeling that we somehow generated it.  It really is as if someone or something else dropped it into our mindstreams.

Now, one thing that all three of these ways of thinking – rapid responses to our environments, organized problem solving, and intuition – have in common is that they all appear to be relatively innocuous, relatively harmless.  It’s hard to figure out how you could go from them to the character in the Nine of Wands who looks like he got the snot beaten out of him.  What the hell happened?  Did he beat himself with his own ideas?  Did someone else dislike his ideas so much that they beat him up?

We find a clue to that process in Eckhart Tolle’s book, “A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.”  In his discussion of the, “pain body,” (the accumulation of subconscious emotional pain that we all carry) he states:  “. . . emotion is the body’s reaction to your mind . . . An emotion is the body’s response to a thought.”

In other words, thoughts never occur in isolation.  There are always emotions attached to them.  With many of them, the emotions, like the thoughts themselves, may arise and fall away so rapidly that we’re not even aware of them, but they’re there.

To use the example from above, we might think, “Remember to buy more cat food,” and not even realize we’re feeling anything.  Just below the surface though, there may be a fair number of emotional reactions, like, “I love my cat, I hate the smell of that fish flavored cat food, I miss my other cat who died, it all costs so much and I’m so worried about money . . .”  Love, hate, sadness, worry, all flashing through us over a damned can of cat food.

We might think that thoughts obviously can’t hurt us.  We can think of a purple polka dotted hippopotamus or the theory of relativity and neither of those thoughts is going to hurt us or anyone else.  They’re just ideas.  But – again – they’re ideas with emotions attached to them, and, yes, emotions can hurt us or help us.

If we obsessively ruminate over unhappy thoughts all day, that will hurt us.  It causes our blood pressure to shoot up, our bodies are flooded with cortisol and adrenaline, our serotonin levels drop and we become much more susceptible to depression and disease.  

If we interrupt those obsessively unhappy thoughts with the memories of something that made us happy – a vacation, great sex, a good friend, water skiing,  a vacation where we had great sex with a good friend while we were water skiing – that will help us.  Our blood pressure drops, serotonin levels increase, stress hormones drop, our immune systems get a boost.

So a good first step in not getting beaten up by our ideas is to consciously realize that every thought has some emotional component to it.  Every time we think something, we feel something.  The more aware we are of that, the more aware we become of what we’re actually feeling and we can gradually start to eliminate the thoughts that make us have bad feelings.  Like fish flavored cat food.

Another thing that can help us is to meditate a bit on the Buddhist notion that NOTHING HAS ANY VALUE.  At first blush, that may sound like a radically nihilistic notion.  “What the hell do you mean, nothing has any value?  I’ll tell you what has some value, Bubba – my new IPhone.  THAT’S what has some value.  Exactly $799.98, plus shipping, that’s how much value it’s got.  Don’t tell ME nothing has any value.”

To express the idea a little more clearly, nothing has any INTRINSIC value.  It only has the value that we assign to it, the value that we project into it.  An IPhone is just a piece of plastic and electronic components.  There’s nothing in it that’s intrinsically, “happy making,”  until we decide that IPhones make us happy.  Or unhappy.

Buddhists put a little finer edge on it by saying that we assign one of two feelings to virtually everything we encounter in life:  attraction or aversion.  Either we like it, in which case we want it, or we don’t like it, in which case we want to avoid it.  

The tricky part is in realizing that there is NOTHING that’s either likable or unlikable until we decide it’s likable or unlikable.  It’s wonderful to realize that because it gets rid of a whole host of unconscious motivations like greed, prejudice, possessiveness, materialism.  Literally, nothing has any value unless we want to think it has some value. Nothing’s good unless we think it, nothing’s bad unless we think it.

It also makes us deliciously responsible for our own lives because we’re no longer victims of circumstance.  How many times have we all said, “I’ll be happy when I get a new car, or a new computer, or a new job, or a better lover, or a nicer house?”  We chronically think that there is something or someone OUT THERE that will magically make us happy.  And if it’s OUT THERE, then we don’t have any control over it.  It’s something that happens to us or it doesn’t, either something outside of us makes us happy, or we’re just doomed to be miserable.

Once we realize that it’s our own thoughts that are assigning happy or miserable feelings to the things out there, that we are unconsciously deciding that some things are attractive and some things are aversive, then we control our own happiness.  Or we can be just as miserable as we want to be.

Happy, sad, mean, joyful, miserable.  They all start with thoughts and we, and we alone, make our thoughts.

The Sex Cards in the Tarot

Everyone likes sex!  Well, nearly everyone.  I actually read an article recently about people who don’t like sex in any way shape or form and don’t feel any sexual desires.  They’re calling themselves, “asexuals,” and actually have their own organization.  How about that?  What an interesting world.

Anyway, nearly everyone likes sex and there are certain Tarot cards which definitely indicate its’ presence in a persons life.  It can be handy to know when it’s likely to pop up in a relationship, whether you’re interested in the other person or not. Come to think of it, it could even be handy for people who are official Asexuals because they’d know who to avoid.  Nearly everyone, right?

FOUR OF WANDS

Two people dancing beneath what looks very much like a wedding gazebo.  There is an element of sex here but in the more traditional sense of marriage and an on going union.  A happy card that includes the idea of sex without actually signifying it outright.

TWO OF CUPS

A man and a woman hold chalices and gaze into each others eyes.  This is a card of profound bonding and love, the start of a serious relationship.  While it can often indicate something as mundane as a good business partner or a best friend, it can also indicate a deep romantic and sexual relationship.

THREE OF CUPS

Three women dance together, chalices raised in mutual salute. Sex is not necessarily a central theme in this card but it’s a possibility because the central theme is PARTY!!!!  This is a card of joyous celebrations so why not sneak a little whoopee into the celebration? May also indicate a happy three way relationship.

THREE OF SWORDS 

A heart pierced by three swords.  This can often indicate a monogamous relationship in which one of the partners has decided to be not so monogamous.  He or she may be screwing around and it’s breaking the partners heart.

THE EMPRESS

An Earth Mother type of woman reclines on a couch holding a sceptre loosely in one hand.  Again, The Empress is not exclusively about sex but it’s definitely included in her vibrations.  Unlike her sister card, The High Priestess, who appears to be a little prim and proper, The Empress is openly sensual.  She reclines comfortably on her couch, legs slightly spread with a definite, “come hither,” look on her face. If you’re involved with The Empress, expect a good time.  On ALL levels.

THE HIEROPHANT

An individual who looks like a pope sits stiffly on a throne between two pillars while two monks bow down to him.  The Hierophant is mainly about organized religion and dogma, so it may seem strange to include it in this post. The point, though, is that The HIerophant is about CONVENTIONAL religion rather than spirituality.  In that sense, if this card shows up in a reading about a relationship you can expect it to be a very CONVENTIONAL relationship with very CONVENTIONAL sex. In other words, always the missionary position, probably with the lights turned out and only when the kids are fast asleep.  If you’re into sex toys and trapezes in your boudoir, RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY . . .

THE LOVERS

A nude man and woman stand in a Garden of Eden setting while a snake climbs a tree next to the woman and an angel hovers over them.  As the name indicates, this card is about love and not JUST love but triple whammie hit in the head with a sledge hammer love. These two people are absolutely thunder struck and there WILL be sex.  Really good sex.

THE DEVIL

This is obviously the same couple from The Lovers, only they’ve been driven out of the Garden of Eden and are now sporting horns and tails while a demon hovers over them instead of an angel.  There is a very strong element of sexuality here but it’s not what you’d describe as happy sex. Instead of joy we find pain and enslavement. It can indicate sexual addiction, BDSM games that have gone WAY too far into pain and humiliation,  or the sexual element of a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. And, to me at least, it’s a sad card: it’s taking one of life’s greatest joys and turning into something sick and twisted.

So there you have it.  When you see these cards in a reading think about sex.  Or think about it anyway – it’s always fun.

The Judgement Card

 

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An angel blows a horn and people rise joyfully from their coffins which appear to be floating on water.  An icy mountain range is in the background.

This card looks kind of creepy – probably because of the gray people jumping out of their coffins – but it’s not.  This card is about judgements of all kinds but especially about self-judgements.

When Judgement shows up in a reading it indicates that a very significant part of a person’s life is coming to an end.  Moreover, the questioner is in a place where he or she can sit back and examine how they behaved during that phase of their lives and whether or not they are satisfied with what they did.

I’ve seen this card come up frequently with home health care providers, for instance, after the loved one they were caring for had passed over.  They had devoted months or years of their lives to caring for another person and then it was time to reflect on the experience and evaluate what they had done.  You can apply the same thing to any important phase in a person’s life, whether it’s the end of a long career or children who are moving out of the house.The basic questions here are what did it all mean and how did I do?  When the card is upright it indicates that the questioner has done well and feels good about it. And there is also the obvious theme of being reborn in this card. I’ve finished that phase of my life, so what do I do next?

There is also, of course, the more mundane matter of legal judgements.  If you’ve been involved with some sort of a court case you can expect a positive outcome.

REVERSED:  The same scenario as with the upright card but when reversed it implies a negative judgement.  The questioner is feeling far from satisfied with his or her own behavior and wishes that she had done better.  Again, this can be applied to any life event that’s coming to an end, whether a relationship or a job.

Pending legal matters will not go well.

A Few More Thoughts About the Judgement Card:

“You’re judging me!”

“Don’t be so judgemental.”

“That’s a value judgement.”

Not to mention visions of crabby, constipated old men in black robes banging little wooden hammers on their desks.

There’s no question that the word, “judgement,” carries a lot of emotional baggage with it.  It, “feels,” like we’re talking about one person condemning another person, something most of us aren’t totally comfortable with.  Hell, I’ve known Buddhists who refused to serve on juries because they were so adamant about not judging another person’s karma.

As I said in my book, “Just the Tarot,” though, the Judgement card is really more about self-judgement.  It’s about taking a hard, dispassionate look at your life and deciding whether you did good or you fucked up.

And then moving on.

We’ve all known people who were in dysfunctional relationships where one person was doing all of the heavy lifting and the other person was letting him or her do it.  I knew one man who was married to a woman who had been brutally raped when she was younger. About five years into their relationship their sex life pretty much disappeared because she was having flashbacks to the rape.  He was a very sensitive, caring man who was deeply in love with her and so he went along with a sexless relationship until it started to make him crazy. He tried to talk to her about it and got nowhere. He suggested that she see a therapist and she refused.  He suggested that THEY see a therapist and she refused.

He finally ended up seeing a therapist himself and discovered that, sadly, a lot of marriage counseling is actually divorce counseling.  After two years of trying to make things work he filed for divorce and they went their separate ways. He still loved her but he realized he deserved a life partner who could love him back.

I mention that particular instance because it contains all of the elements of the Judgement card.  1 – Being confronted with a large problem in your life. 2 – Working hard to deal with it or solve it.  3 – Seeing very clearly that it involved a phase of your life which, for better or worse, is over and walking away from it.  4 – Making a Judgement about your own behavior and evaluating how you did before you move on to the next phase.

It happens all the time.  Women who live with abusers and try with all of their hearts to believe that the man will somehow change until there’s one too many beatings.  Home health providers who take care of parents with dementia until they’re emotionally and spiritually exhausted and just don’t have anything more to give.  People who endure terrible jobs with terrible bosses for years and finally have enough.

The self judgement is sometimes positive and sometimes negative.  Sometimes we can look at ourselves and say, “Yeah, I did really good and I did everything I could have.”  Sometimes we have to admit that there are things we wish we could have done better or wonder if we should have tried a different approach.  

In either case there is strong self-knowledge that it’s OVER.  That chapter of your life is closed out and you’re moving on to the next chapter, hopefully a wiser and more compassionate human being.

Time to be re-born.

compassion-fatigue-lr-knost

 

The Devil Tarot Card

 

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The Baphomet devil, horned and with huge bat wings, perches on a black cube.  His legs are those of a goat and his feet are talons. He holds his right hand aloft and the palm of it seems to be incised with obscure symbols.  In his left hand he holds a flaming torch. A nude female and male stand before him with their backs turned to him. They have horns and chains, which bind them to the cube, are draped loosely around their necks.  They also have tails and the devil seems to have lit the man’s tail on fire.

There are a lot of symbolic elements in this card, so let’s take them one at a time and work through them.  The man and the woman hearken back to the nude couple in The Lovers card, but there is nothing sacred or blessed about their relationship  They are chained, enslaved, and reduced to their lowest levels of feeling and being.

The enslavement may be on the obvious level of some sort of twisted sexuality.  Perhaps there is some level of bondage and domination going on in their sex lives that has gone way too far.

The enslavement may be on the physical level itself.  A love of materialism, money, a constant need for new and expensive toys.

It may fall in the area of addictions to substances that destroy the spirit and soul, such as meth, heroin, and excessive amounts of alcohol.  There’s a saying in Alcoholics Anonymous: “Booze gave me wings and then took away the sky.”

Whatever the form of bondage, it is to some extent self-imposed.  Note how loosely the chains hang around their necks. They could easily slip them over their heads and walk from their slavery, yet they don’t.  By not fighting for their freedom they are cooperating with their slavery.

There’s another element here that many of the New Age tarot books tend to ignore or gloss over and that’s Black Magic.  When The Devil shows up in a reading it’s possible that someone is directing malevolent magic against the questioner or that he or she is engaging in it.

If this card shows up in a reading about employment it’s possible that the questioner is chained to a job that he hates but can’t leave because of financial obligations.  If it shows up in a reading about relationships it’s possible that there’s going to be a lot of sex in the questioners future. A lot. Hot. Steamy. Sex.

REVERSED:  This shows that liberation may be at hand in the immediate future.  The questioner will do something to escape the spiritual and/or physical enslavement that she is currently involved in.  May show the end of a really bad relationship.

A Few Additional Thoughts About the Devil and . . . ahem . . .S – E – X.

It’s interesting to note that Eliphas Levi, the occultist who first sketched the goat of Baphomet that appears on the devil card, didn’t consider the devil to be such a bad dude at all.  In fact, he wrote:

“The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter, as the flame, whilst being tied to matter, shines above it. “

He actually considered the devil to be a symbol of balance and integration of polar opposites.  And there are those elements in the depictions of the devil in the earlier versions of the Tarot.

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We see here that the devil is very much hermaphroditic having both breasts and a penis.  (As a folk artist I REALLY like the little face on his belly.) We can also see that this devil  is much more along the lines of the christian perception of the devil and the two people in the card look much less like humans and much more like imps.  Or flying monkeys, maybe.

So what prompted Waite to switch to the Levi version of the devil?  Well, you’d probably have to say sex. Or sex, sex, and more sex.

Waite described the humans on the card as being Adam and Eve after they’d been driven out of the garden of eden.  “The figures are tailed to signify the animal nature but there is human intelligence in their features . . .”

Their ANIMAL nature!  Whoa . . .

We have to keep in mind that Waite was very much a creature of the late Victorian era.  Women, for the most part, were still held up as being naturally, “pure,” and sex – if it was discussed at all – was left to the medical books and gentlemens’ clubs.  One physician noted that,

“the majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled by sexual feeling of any kind. What men are habitually, women are only exceptionally.’

Troubled by sexual feelings . . . how terrible for the men.

And they were TRULY troubled by their sexual feelings.  One commonly held belief was that excessive masturbation would inevitably drive you insane.  Fortunately, the Victorians were able to respond to this threat rationally and so they manufactured a safe and effective anti-masturbation device for men:

masturbation-device_290x290 (1)

No, I’m not kidding.  That’s actually on display at the Science Museum in London and models of it were being sold as late as the 1920s.

So given that background you can understand some of the changes that Waite made to the devil card.  Despite his spiffy bat wings the devil is quite obviously a goat, an animal famous for its’ prodigious sexual appetites.  The woman in the card is actually standing quite primly, except for being totally naked, and has her little hands pointed outwards in the same pose favored by today’s beauty pageant contestants.

The man, on the other hand, has one hand extended toward the woman and the devil is lighting his tail on FIRE!!!  No doubt IN – flaming his base, animalistic, sexual drive. If only the poor guy had an anti-masturbation protector to keep that critter between his legs under control.

Alas, he doesn’t have one and so both he and the poor, normally totally pure woman with a pomegranate tail are CHAINED to the altar of the devil, slaves of their genitals!  Well . . . his genitals. The woman has genitals but she doesn’t feel them. Everyone knows that.

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