Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Sun

The Sun card in Tarot

The sun
The Sun TOCC
With the dawn of each new day, there is something we take for granted – the sun. Think on this. 
For most of us, astronomical aspects of the sun and its planetary system within the galaxy and the  universe is too vast to be perceived, but every day we see this enormous ball of fire, which is forever exploding violently, spewing gasses, emitting radiation, and spreading light over our entire solar system. If its light didn’t shine on earth, again and again, as it does, we would be like a lifeless dull asteroid floating in the darkness of space.Almost all life on earth depends on the heat and light of the sun where it is neither too hot nor too cold for living creatures to survive on its surface. As we orbit the sun, obviously, we are aware that we experience ultra-lightness and total darkness within 24-hour periods of day and night and, in our 1,000 mile an hour rotation, the sun appears to come up in the East and set in the West every day. During the four seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, the sunlight is always changing because of the earth’s 23.5 -degree tilt on its axis and we experience fluctuations in the amount of light received from very little to a lot in a year. Mars receives sunlight too, but so far, there are no living beings there to partake in it. In the article, “The Secret Life of the Sun” (Scientific American, June 2018) the author states that, “The sun was born in a cloud of gas and dust … when enough matter condensed to ignite nuclear fusion.” Think of it as nuclear furnace where hydrogen fuels its core and is constantly emitting an enormous amount of light traveling at 186,300 miles a second throughout our solar system. With a diameter of 864,000 miles, it is a radiant star central to eight planets and situated on the edge of the vast Milky Way Galaxy, home to perhaps 200 billion other stars. How do we react to this thought?  As simply as possible. Some people get up in the dawn of morning and go outside to greet the sun and express their gratitude for another experience of light and life in our lives. Let us welcome every new day of sunlight and revel in a sense of aliveness.

Over the centuries, we have seen various interpretations of the significance of sunlight and investigated how it has influenced the daily lives of past populations. In a historical sense, beginning with early peoples, we have learned how some groups linked their lives with the changing light of the sun and observed its cycles in their ancient religions. In those times, many communities worshipped the sun through symbolism and myths. Symbols of the sun, which were symbolic of their god “Ra” or “Atum,” are evident in hieroglyphs and tomb paintings of the earliest Egyptians. They thought the sun was the eye of Ra, the generator of life on earth.

 “Ra means either sun or light. Our sun is the eye of Ra and not Ra himself”
Moustafa Gadalla, Egyptian Cosmology (Bastet Publishing, 1977)

In another context, the term light had significant meaning in an esoteric sense. Biblical writings, as in the Old Testament, began with “Let there be light,” with the first day of creation. (Gen. 1:3) And then the stellar system with the sun and the moon was created on the fourth day (Gen 1:16-17). In 1 John 1:5, of the New Testament, it says: “…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all,” which is interpreted in the Oxford Bible to mean Light that: “…represents absolute holiness without taint of evil.”  “Arise, shine for your light has come…” (Matt. 5:16).  In Greek myths, the sun god was Apollo, known as the god of light, who was depicted in sculpture with sun rays streaming from his head. In Old Europe, archeologists have shown that over 3,000 years ago, people celebrated the sun in important astronomical alignments of huge stones in their megalithic structures, which can still be measured, such as Stonehenge and Avebury in England. Here, certain placements of stones in circles measured the apparent motion of the sun and moon. In Ireland, near Dublin, at the Neolithic Newgrange Tomb, there is a “roof box” over the entrance through which the sun shines on Midwinter Day - the Solstice - and illuminates the inner passage of 62 feet. Massive stones, each weighing 2 to 14 tons, line the interior and are incised with spirals. At the end, a triple spiral is illuminated by the winter light on Midwinter day. Researchers have conjectured that these spirals symbolize natural sources, such as blind springs underneath, where perhaps, in those prehistoric people’s beliefs, this symbolized rebirth and renewal where spirits travelled to and from the underworld. (See The Avebury Cycle by Michael Dames, Thames and Hudson, 1977)

This winter day,
It is warm in the sun
                  But cold!       (Onitsura)
Light in Art
In late Gothic Art, the artist, Hieronymous Bosch (1450-1516) painted what is essentially “The Light at the End of The Tunnel.” In Cardinal Grimani’s Altarpiece, he painted the Ascent of the Blessed where little figures appear to be moving through a tunnel into the bright light at the end. Concerning this enigmatic painting, Hans Belting, in his book, Hieronymous Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (Prestel Publishing Ltd, 2002) states that, “The light lends added drama to cosmic spaces by illuminating the darkness, culminating in a tunnel of light leading to the celestial paradise, which is present only in absolute light radiating into the tunnel.”  In a more scientific sense, Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1519) and Claude Monet (1840-1926) studied the effects of light on nature. Monet painted the many ways sunlight fell on haystacks at different times of the day. Leonardo carefully observed light and dark patterns and drew diagrams of the way objects reflected light, such as in a still life and, he showed what happens in the absence of light as he scrutinized variations of darkness in the cast shadows.


 “Those of us who choose to be spiritual seekers and transformers must now move
into the world with the same degree of commitment to our spiritual selves as we would
have if we renounced the world.”
“Living in the Light,” Shakti Gawain (Whatever Publishing, 1986)

In a metaphysical sense, light means spiritual illumination and enlightenment, which enables us to see circumstances clearly - in contrast to situations that seem obscure and foggy or mysteriously dark. Sincere seekers contemplate an inner transcendent light in stages of meditation as they search for spiritual illumination in their lives. In meditation, some sense they are being animated by the divine life force and feel they are connecting to a luminous energy from the never-ending cosmic source. For them, this brings clarity to some of the truths about themselves and life on earth.  Buddhists speak of this heightened awareness as “enlightenment, Nirvana.” They have seen “the Light.”

“Enlightenment is an experience, not an idea. The person feels struck by a burst of light…”
Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, Rachael Pollack (The Aquarian Press, Ltd, 1980)

What do you want? “… a better life,” says Edith in the TV series, Downtown Abbey. Don’t we all want a better life? Enlightenment in Buddhism means letting go of attachments. It is a search for truth about this life and the true nature of reality. It is a “…realization of the universal law of Oneness wherein there is no ‘these and those.’” (Nyogen Senzaki, Buddhism and Zen, Philosophical Library, 1953). In meditation, one hopes to discover Truth. Nirvana may be brought about by examining oneself and discovering that materialistic desire is the root cause of anxiety and suffering. “I want this, I want that. Please God, grant me patience and give it to me right now!” The experience of enlightenment is transformative and can only be reached in the absence of desire. In Zen, an awakening can occur by practicing mindfulness and following the 8-fold path to union with wisdom, in Oneness. This state is achieved through right view, right conduct in thought, speech, action, resolve, livelihood, and mindfulness. Inner peace is found in dealing with, and transcending, the duality of the “monkey mind” chattering away in our heads. There is an unpretentious logic in this - having to do with how we perceive the world. That tree we see is a tree. The image we have in mind about the tree is not the tree, it is an illusion in our imagination.  Just as in a still-life painting, the table and the flowers are not the real table and flowers, only a facsimile of what they really are.   

“Buddha means an enlightened mental state or condition.”
Nyogen Senzaki, Buddhism and Zen (Philosophical Library, 1953)

Age of Enlightenment
From a totally different perspective, the term “enlightenment” can also refer to radical changes in thought, which historically, has spurred revolutions. What occurred in the Western World of thought in the 17th  18th century is not to be confused with spiritual or religious enlightenment. It was a political and philosophical movement that promoted science and reason over myth and superstition and has since been called The Age of Enlightenment. It centered on the idea that reason was the source of knowledge, which included liberty, progress, constitutional government, and separation of church and state. It was a time of revolutionary cultural change that began with the liberation of Europe from the tyranny of feudalism and absolute monarchies. It was the influence behind the American Revolution where the colonies separated from the British Monarchy and became their own nation, and all people were deemed to have inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In Europe, the French Monarchy ended in the Revolution of 1789 with the establishment of a Republic. And the Hapsburg dynasty formally collapsed in 1918 during World War I and then new nation states were established. The British Monarchy still continues with lesser governmental powers and a Constitutional Monarch in Queen Elizabeth II. 

Tarot Interpretation
B.O.T.A. deck
In Tarot and Astrology, the meaning of The Sun card centers around perceptions of enlightenment and joy in our lives. The Sun in Astrology is the archetypal symbol of the constellation Leo the Lion, signifying regal courage and strength of purpose, desire and will power.  “…the Arcanum, The Sun with which we are occupied is an Arcanum of children bathing in the light of the sun – implying simplicity and enthusiastic joy.” (Anonymous author of Meditations on the Tarot, Putnam 1985) In a Tarot reading, this means a person is fully awake, experiencing happiness and the good life; going forward with hope, energy, enthusiasm, and optimism. With The Sun card in Tarot, this means we can proceed in the radiance of light with a sense of commitment to love and magnificence wherever we are. The Sun card signifies the positive aspects of the promise of good things to come and brings something new with the dawn of every new day. The light in your life is when you or someone else brings inspiration and joy and good feelings to the rest of us, of being uplifted in everyday experiences, “You light up my life!” It is the gift of happiness and of feeling really alive and present with the ability to participate fully in everything. For yourself, you are being in charge, taking on leadership with courage and strength and making things better for everyone. This may seem obvious, but as we know, there are some things we can’t be sure of, although we can be sure that while we are living on the earth – the earth is still here and the sun is still shining on it.

One more note:
 When we are having scary thoughts about life on earth and what is happening to the earth, climate catastrophes and all that, keep in mind what E.O. Wilson has said succinctly, “…to stave off a mass extinction crisis…set aside half the planet as permanently protected areas for the ten million other species.” (See “The Wildest Idea on Earth,” Tony Hiss, (Smithsonian Magazine, September 2014).  Let’s do our best to make sure there is still a healthy earth for the sun to continue to shine upon.

The Dream of Reason, Anthony Gottlieb (W.W. Norton 2000)
The Notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci, Jean Paul Richter (Dover Publications 1970)
Zen and Reality, Robert Powell (Viking Press 1961)

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Moon Card

The Moon, another view

Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, Astronaut Neil Armstrong spoke to the world from the surface of the moon. The Apollo mission to land on the moon had succeeded.  It was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” he said as he and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.
What is our attraction to the moon?  Why were we going there? Were we just “Moonstruck?  

“It is the symbol of natural rhythms of the transformation of elements, of time
that passes periodically, re-purposing everything.”
(Visconti Tarots, Giordano Berti & Tiberio Gonard, Lo Scarabeo, 2002)

First, some thoughts on what the moon is doing and how it has affected past civilizations, before a discussion of The Moon card in Tarot. We can see that the moon is always in motion, rising in the east and setting in the west, moving about 12 ½ degrees each day. In the reflected light from the sun, it changes appearance from full to shadow in about 29 ½ days. It is waxing to light and waning to dark, and then we are amazed to see a full moon when it is opposite the sun. Furthermore, it’s position in the sky is changing over an 18.61-year period from maximum declination, where it appears going more north, and then in minimum, it appears in the south. Every day, we experience the moon’s gravitational pull on the earth in high and low tides and women are especially affected by it.

Seeing the moon at Stonehenge and Avebury -  
Stonehenge Alignments

In archeoastronomy, it is thought that early cultures in Britain viewed themselves as an integral part of their natural surroundings. We can see today that they constructed monumental arrangements of stones in astronomical alignments that expressed their reverence of Mother Nature and the sky. Modern day examination of the stone placements and alignments show that early peoples measured the movement of the sun and moon in relation to the earth in places like Stonehenge in England and, as far away as the buildings of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. The builders of Stonehenge not only measured the position of the rising sun on Summer Solstice, but also followed the moon’s 18.6 years cyclic movement in the heavens, which has now been confirmed by astronomers. (See In Search of Ancient Astronomies, ed. Dr. E.C. Krupp of Griffith Observatory, McGraw-Hill, 1978.) Studies were made of a series of 56 post holes surrounding Stonehenge called the Aubrey Circle, which included 2 stones that are positioned opposite each other indicating an alignment of moonrise and moonset at major and minor standstills. It is also possible they could predict eclipses of the moon here. Not only did they see the sun rise over the heel stone on summer solstice, they could also watch the moonrise on Winter Solstice in the dead of winter.

The mystery of Avebury    
Avebury (photo card Bob Croxford)
Furthermore, not far from Stonehenge, we come upon the great stone circle of Avebury and enormous mound, Silbury Hill, where it has been conjectured by Michael Dames in his book, The Avebury Cycle (Thames & Hudson, 1977), that a vast immanent Mother Earth Goddess figure can still be seen on the farming landscape. Ariel photographs seem to confirm that. Mr. Dames proposes that watchers on Silbury Hill (interpreted as the womb of the goddess) could observe the full moon rising as it was reflected in the waters of Swallowhead Spring, which could be construed as the Goddess giving birth. It seems the early people’s belief was that Mother Earth and man were celebrated as one in Nature and they constructed the giant figure to represent seasonal changes that affected their farming lives; the planting and harvest. Up until the 1930’s, country fairs and celebrations took still place on the upper body of the figure at harvest time.

“…the monuments were created as a coherent ensemble to stage a religious drama
which took one year to perform”
The Avebury Cycle, Michael Dames (Thames & Hudson, 1977)

Pueblo Bonito (Impact Photo)
The pueblo ruins of Chaco Canyon - 
In 2006, I watched a magical moonrise over the silent, flat landscape of Farmington, New Mexico, near Chaco Canyon. In the clear night sky, it was enormous, bright and unforgettable. It is no wonder that the nearby early pueblo builders established symbols and stations within their stone buildings for viewing the rising and setting motion of the moon. What a grand nighttime inspiration for the people to celebrate and invoke nature spirits in mystical ceremonies with kachina costumes and dances held in secret kivas. Their belief was that every living thing had a spiritual counterpart, and atmospheric conditions were part of their supernatural world – rain, clouds, steam, the sun and the moon were there to guide them. Through complex rituals, they invoked supernatural beings (kachinas) to help them find water, bring rain, and make plants grow. They made elaborate masks and costumes and danced in seasonal ceremonies as representatives of a particular kachina at each season of the year.

“A kachina impersonator is believed to receive the spirit of the kachina he depicts
when he wears the mask.”
Southwest Indian Ceremonials, Tom Bahti, (KC Publications, 1982)

At Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon, the artist Anna Sofaer, discovered a spiral petroglyph that was crossed by a “sun dagger” of light on Summer Solstice; a kind of sundial carved in stone. It also indicated major and minor standstills of the moon in cast shadows on the spiral. In the CD, The Mystery of Chaco Canyon, narrated by Robert Redford, he points out that the National Geodetic Survey has discovered that several of the buildings in this area are aligned with the motions of the moon and also indicated the path of the sun. This must have been very important to them to go to such great lengths to incorporate astronomical alignments into their buildings. At Pueblo Bonito, the sun sets along a central wall on the days of the equinoxes. At Chimney Rock Pueblo, the rising moon is only visible between the two chimneys at the major northern standstill, which occurs once every 18.61 years.

“Much of the Puebloan lore revolves around women and children, and pregnant women are most vulnerable to the dangers of an eclipse.”
Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest (Malville & Putnam, Johnson Books, 1993)

The status of Chaco Canyon today -
Currently, the area around Chaco Canyon is under threat. The government is leasing 6.2 million acres of federal land for drilling by the gas and oil industry. But for the moment, the 10th Circuit Court has reversed or suspended hundreds of leases for drilling near Chaco Canyon. A one-year moratorium was passed by the house of Representatives for review of the current situation. (For more information, see

Tarot interpretation of The Moon card       
The Moon TOCC
Marseille Deck
In Tarot, we are talking about a different kind of experience for Tarot lovers. The Moon card is usually interpreted as symbolic of the human waxing and waning of our mysterious inner states, which are always in flux.  You can expect change and fluctuation when The Moon card comes up in a reading. In interpreting The Moon card, we look for hidden emotional reactions to our “human condition.” It inspires us to turn to the intuitive part of ourselves and listen for hidden messages from our deeper inner being. Here we can experience a “dream time” and give free reign to exploring our imagination and creative ideas. Ask yourself what your moods are and what your emotional reaction is to things right now. Give credence to feminine intuition and pay attention to how you are feeling. In a positive sense, just as the moon is mirroring sunlight, are you feeling strong and good, radiating joyousness and festivity? Or as in the dark side of the moon, are you feeling vulnerable, muddled, anxious, distressed, and stuck in emotional uncertainty?    

Reversed, The Moon card is a warning to beware of illusions, deceptions, wild imaginings, fear, and hidden secrets. Rachael Pollack, in her commentary in the Vertigo Tarot by Dave McKean (DC Comics, 1995), she gives us an interpretation of the meaning of the Moon card in traditional decks (such as the Marseille Tarot): “We have descended below human consciousness to our animal selves (the dog and the wolf) and deeper still to strange primal instincts symbolized by the lobster.” This is a time to go inward and reflect on your thought processes and way of being in the world.

The Avebury Cycle, Michael Dames (Thames &Hudson, 1977)
Early Man and the Cosmos, Evan Haddingham (University of Oklahoma Press, 1984)
Stonehenge Decoded, Gerald Hawkins (Dell Publishing, 1965)
In Search of Ancient Astronomies, (Ed.) E.C. Krupp (Griffith Observatory, McGraw-Hill, 1978)
Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest, Malville & Putnam, Johnson Printing, 1993)
Southwestern Indian Ceremonials, Mark Bahti (KC Publishing, 1982)
The Mystery of Chaco Canyon, CD by Anna Sofaer, The Solstice Project (Bullfrog Films, 2003)